Saturday, April 30, 2016

Meet the Artist... Micah Purnell

Si: Hi Micah, and welcome to the exhibition blog.
Can I start by asking you to tell us a bit about your work and the motivations behind it?

Micah: Hmm, what's to say... I'm a city dwelling, real ale drinking, husband and father of four, graphic designer, artist, family-centric, brought up Christian but tend to keep that quite due to peoples pre-conceived media spun ideas of what that means. These are the things that motivate me and my work. A desire to get in and through the dominant, corporate, commercial self interested voices and put something alternative in it's place...

Si: That's interesting, because when we first got the go-ahead for this exhibition, I knew that I wanted you to be part of it -  there's something very Blake-ian about the work that you make and where you put it - something subversive and which looks to confront those dominant cultural narratives that we're surrounded by, something that's restlessly seeking a better way to be...
I wonder if you recognise that connection to Blake? (or whether it's just me getting carried away!)

Micah: Ha, yeah I guess so, though I am shamefully unaware of the majority of his work. Having delved into Jerusalem a little via conversations with your good self and simply wikipedia I now see a much bigger picture, and might even sing it next time.

Si: Heh heh! Maybe we should've had some karaoke for the opening night. Then again... maybe not :0) 
I'm wondering if there are other artists or designers or creatives who have influenced your practice and your thinking...? who do you recommend that we should seek out...?

Micah: As much of my work is text based I would have to include Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer and Anthony Burrill [below] who all have some level of self social critique, humour and analytical critique.

Si: Have you got any other projects on the go, or exhibitions coming up that you'd like us to know about?

I'm currently working on It's an curated outdoor art space in the public realm which offers an interval between the ads, a gap between the consumer tone of visuals we're used to seeing, to offer something back for free. A similar previous project I initiated was Print & Paste exhibited artists from the UK, New York, Japan, Sweden and others and made it into Creative Review and other international online creative magazines.  

This year I want bus shelter size back lit ad spaces in 10 cities across England (to start with) I just need £10K and people with prominent sites in cities to make it happen. If you're one of those people please shout.

Si: That sounds brilliant (literally!) - we'll look forward to seeing what comes of that... Lastly, thanks again for designing our exhibition publicity material. We really love it, and it's been great taking it round places and seeing folks reaction to it. People really like those cards...

Micah: Thanks, I've really enjoyed learning about the project and getting involved.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Meet the Artist... Ian Kirkpatrick

Si: Hi Ian, and welcome to the exhibition blog!
I have loved your work whenever and wherever I've seen it, so it's a genuine delight to have you onboard for this show...
For the benefit of folk who haven't seen your stuff before, how would you describe your practice?

I’m really interested in working with images, materials, themes and technologies that are part of everyday modern life.  I use my training as a graphic designer to create my work digitally – and manufacture it out of the same industrial materials that are typically found in the urban landscape.   The surfaces of my work are filled with iconographies relating to contemporary life, as well as history.  I like bringing imagery from the past and present together – and using the connections and contradictions between them as a way to comment upon current events.

Much of the work I’ve been doing recently is inspired by packaging design – and takes the form of large, decorated cardboard sculptures shaped like classical statues or ancient idols.  But for this exhibition I was interested to try something a bit different, and make a piece inspired by church architecture.  I ended up designing a large triptych, constructed out of Dibond – the same material governments use for street signage.  I wanted to capture attention in the way that official signage is intended to do – and speak with that same visual language of authority. 

Si: Having seen the plans for that triptych, I'm very excited - I am really looking forward to seeing it in the flesh...
Interestingly, you're one of two Canadian artists involved in this show (Guy Delisle is the other), and one of the key things that your piece for the exhibition references is the issue of migration...
So I'm wondering about your own journey to the uk and - in particular - how you've ended up in Leeds...

Ian: My wife and I originally moved to the UK (from Victoria, Canada) in 2007 so she could undertake a PhD in archaeology at the University of Southampton.  It was in Southampton that I first started making art professionally .  After showing work in a couple of exhibitions, I joined a studio (Aspace) which helped me meet other artists and become part of a small local community.

In 2012, my wife won a lectureship at the University of York and so we moved up North.  I’d recently spoken at a conference hosted by the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, and I contacted the organiser to ask if she had any suggestions for studios in the area.  She suggested East Street Arts, which turned out to be an excellent recommendation.  Although it’s a bit of a commute from York to Leeds, East Street Arts has proven to be the most amazing studio – not just because of the spaces themselves but due to the community and the organisation itself.  It's been great having an excuse to come to Leeds regularly; I love its urban feel and the strength of its arts scene.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it was only in the UK that I started making art in a professional sense.  For me there was something about being in a new country that really helped jumpstart my career.  Partly I think it had to do with being a ‘stranger in a strange place’ and searching for a community of like-minded people who were able to encourage and support my work.  But also I think that when people from different backgrounds intermingle, it can help generate new creative ideas that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.  So for me, immigrating to a new country has been an incredibly positive experience as an artist.   

Si: I think that your "stranger's" take on nationhood and Englishness is really important within this show; and it's brilliant to get a positive sense of what migration can mean, when so much of the media coverage and the conversation around immigration seems to come from such a negative perspective right now... 

Ian: Yes it’s been interesting to see how the issue of migration has become so heated over the 8 years or so since I moved to England – and how it’s become a key topic in many Western countries. In many cases it feels very much like an easy distraction from the real economic issues those countries are facing due to other problems.  The irony is that many people who emigrate to other countries feel a need to work very hard, I believe.  Personally I feel grateful for the chance to be living in a country with such amazing opportunities as an artist; this makes me work even harder to try and succeed, and to contribute in my own way the national arts scene.  Interestingly, many of my commissioned pieces & themed exhibitions have addressed England as a subject – and I do feel that being an outsider gives me a unique perspective on English traditions, myths, and nationhood.

Si: I was talking with someone the other day who reckoned that 'Blake's Jerusalem' is effectively embedded into the English psyche - it's language is part of our national vernacular, and it's become part of our DNA; to the point where folk can happily bellow it out without ever once stopping to consider what it is actually about or what Blake was saying... So it's an anthem that is claimed and sung by the political Left and the Right, by republicans and royalists, and that's certainly part of it's fascination for me...
Did you know anything much about the song before we invited you to make something for the exhibition?

Ian: I must admit that I had to look it up on YouTube – and didn’t recognize the song at all!  To me it doesn’t have much resonance compared to ‘God Save the Queen’, which is musically more powerful and memorable in my opinion.  So I suppose I found myself gravitating, for this exhibition, towards the actual poem by Blake, rather than the anthem.  Over the last few years I’ve found myself increasingly fascinated by Blake’s work – both in terms of his imagery/design, and also his mythology.  So when you contacted me and mentioned that the show was about William Blake…I really jumped at the chance to respond to his 'And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time' poem.  What began to emerge as a theme, for me, was the issue of migration - and in particular the idea that migration is such a longstanding historical activity.  The poem, of course, addresses the possibility that Jesus visited England in his youth – and for me I was struck by the connections between that event & the current waves of people trying to reach Europe and England from the Middle East.  I wanted to link contemporary events to the ancient past of Blake’s poem, and maybe even further back.  The altarpiece structure helped facilitate this, by dividing the work into distinctive parts and therefore defining clear geographical ‘regions’ within the narrative - similar to how traditional altarpieces might be divided into heaven, earth, and hell.

Well, I have to admit that I am a little bit horrified that you'd never heard (or remembered hearing) 'Jerusalem' before! But then maybe that reflects in me a peculiar sort of English insularity! And it certainly illustrates why your involvement in this show - and the insights that you bring to it - are so valuable... :0)

Ian: Thanks Si! I definitely hope that my work can provide a different perspective of what England means to those originating from other lands – hopefully that comes through in my piece, in addition to the other themes I address in the work.

 Si: Looking ahead, what are you working on next? Any exhibitions or events that we should be seeking out?

Ian:  I’ve currently got a series of sculptures on exhibit at Leeds City Museum – pieces I created during my Leverhulme Trust residency with Leeds Museums and Galleries in response to their First World War collection.  

I’m also working on my first public art commission – a large steel sculpture for the Harehills area.  It’s been quite an exciting and eye-opening experience – so it’ll be very rewarding to see it finally built, hopefully sometime this summer!  I’ll be posting about it on my website, Instagram and Twitter accounts – along with other projects underway…so please stay tuned!


Twitter: @iankirkpatrick

Instagram: iankirkpatrickartist

Facebook: iankirkpatrickartist

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Meet the Artist... Eddy Aigbe

Eddy Aigbe is a Nigerian born Birmingham based visual artist, multimedia painter and art tutor. Presently, he's the resident artist at the Lozells Methodist Community Centre. Eddy has been passionately producing art and teaching art to an international audience. His current work utilizes a complex application of mixed media and, textured collage with thick layers.

Si: Hi Eddy, and welcome to the exhibition blog.
Your work is beautifully expressive - the colour and the textures in your paintings are fantastic - and at the same time there's a lot of careful observation and serious draughtsmanship going on there too.
Could you tell us a bit about how you work, and how the paintings come about?

Eddy: Thank you Si. My process involves way more thought than physical activity. I tend to throw myself in deep about a lot of things. From, what needs to be communicated, to what symbols, colours, and forms will best convey my intent. Writing , and sketching ideas until, a eureka moment (or not) appears.

I work with varied mediums, starting with plastic to acrylic mediums, and everything else in between. I layer compatible mediums and build this up until I'm satisfied. I then start the colouring process, building layers of colour from purposeful to subliminal, and back again. That's the most simple way that I can explain it.

Si: I think that you can really see those processes at work in your paintings...
Meanwhile, I've seen some work-in-progress shots of your piece for our exhibition, and I'm really looking forward to seeing it finished and hung in St Ed's church.
Is there anything that you can tell us about the thinking and ideas that have gone into it?

Eddy: My work is based on Blake's center of thought, that people should take responsibility for change, to desire and, build a better society. My education and life has been strongly influenced by both Nigerian and British society. This has placed me in a very unique relational perspective, in my (rather short but, fruitful) study of Blake's work. His work relates very much with other radical poets and play writers from Nigeria, in the likes of Prof. Wole Shoyinka and Prof. Chinua Achebe. These radicals from different continents, share a commonality in the belief that through a creative mental struggle, imagination will produce the desired catalyst for desired change. The mental struggle is the focal point of my work.

Mirroring Blake's works, I have used symbolism in form, color and, composition to depict this mental fight as it were, dominating the canvas with yellows (a symbol of hope), purple (symbols of power and contrastingly, wisdom), and violets (representing the future, the imagination and dreams). The main figure in the painting, is surrounded by  a landscape of 'dark satanic' mills, anguish, and oppressive institutions (both political and religious), which do not fulfill their intended creation.

But this 'man' represents within it, humanity's physical and spiritual self,  emerging from this 'satanic mill' albeit, reborn. His eye lighted by faith, while he looks up with hope at the the trees above for divine support (the trinity? Nature?) that bear freedom, salvation, and positive change within them. And though his lips be barred from expression, he yet speaks without a voice, surrounding himself with symbols and colours of his hopes and desires.
For me, this is the exact moment that the birth pains of emancipation starts... From within, in the imagination...

The Gospel of John chapter 3 verse 3
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

With those immortal words, true emancipation starts.

Gillian Holding... More Work in (Slow/Fast) Progress

Friday, April 22, 2016

Meet the Artists... Emma Hardaker and Rachel Hinds...

From a disused pie factory to the dark satanic mills of Brighouse, and back again... curator Si Smith talks with artists Rachel Hinds and Emma Hardaker about where they've been and where they're going...

Si: Hi Rachel and Emma, and welcome to the exhibition blog.When we approached each of you about making some work for this show I didn't realise it, but you know one another from back in the day, when you shared a studio at Enjoy...

Emma: It feels like so long since I was a studio holder with Enjoy!

Rachel:  Ah yes, the landscapes that I painted there. I remember being very excited to have my first ever studio space - it was in Mabgate, and I think the building used to be a pie factory. It was very cheap with a mix of professional artists and art enthusiasts…

Si: So I’m wondering what you’ve both been up to since you shared that studio space?

Rachel: I'm still painting landscapes, I can see how they are improving technically all the time. I'm keen to continually strive to improve and eventually achieve a very high standard, to be among the best!
This sort of study takes years, decades even, and in this age of 'the Next Big New Thing in Art' it’s essentially going against the tide. Which is something I frequently find myself doing…
Since I left Enjoy studios, I've been figuring out the direction I want my painting to go. I'm pretty sure now I want to concentrate on two areas - achieving excellence in my figurative work, and experimenting with colour and form in my abstracts.

I recently found out that the Atelier system was alive and well, so my aim this year is to go to Manchester to study with a realist art school. What direction has your art career taken Emma?  I remember doing a workshop with you last year in the Corn Exchange!

Emma: At the beginning of 2014 I decided to open an art supplies shop and started running and teaching classes. I closed the shop end of last year and I am now concentrating once again on my own practice, whilst running a few workshops here and there… I am also working with Assembly House as a programmer and, in a strange turn of events, have recently returned back to Enjoy running their project space along with the rest of Assembly House! Where is your studio at the moment - or are you working from home?

Rachel: I've a studio about 12 minutes walk from my house! 

It's great to hear that Enjoy is doing well - I remember that substantial exhibition space upstairs - Leeds could do with more spaces like that for emerging artists to showcase their work.  After the  drama surrounding the opening of the British Art Show 8, myself and other artists were surprised to learn that Leeds has so few opportunities for artists to exhibit in the city centre.  Manchester and Liverpool are more on the game - let's hope Leeds steps up. The north of England has a hard time getting the attention it deserves in the national art scene as it is. 
What's the focus of your art practice these days?

Emma: I make conceptual pieces - often constructed from a combination of film projection and performance. They're visually quite stylised and often cinematic...

I think that having live elements encourages the audience to interact more with the work, and that enhances the whole experience...

Si: I'm really pleased to have you both onboard for the exhibition, because I think that you'll each bring something quite unique to the show... I don't want to pressure you into giving any secrets away, but can you tell us something about the work that you've made/are making for us...?

Rachel: Well, I've always admired Blake's passion, and his beatific visions of England. So for this exhibition, I painted a scene of a small mill town - Brighouse, in Calderdale, complete with mills and chimneys and a flock of curious cows…

Emma: I really like that piece and look forward to seeing it in person soon. It feels very much like you are seeing the very place that Blake speaks of in the poem, and the atmosphere you have created with the colours is like the feeling you get just before it rains… For this show I have been exploring ideas of patriotism and religion - mainly looking at ways I can relay the thoughts and feelings of the poem into an installation or performance. So far I have began making films using repetition and rituals, and I have began planning an endurance performance using needle work which makes reference to the labour ensured in the "dark satanic mills"...

Rachel: So what’s your take on Blake, Emma?

Emma: I’ve been inspired by Blake since I was bought a poetry book with poems of his, selected by Patti Smith, for one of my birthdays as a teenager. When did you first come across him?

Rachel: I bought the work of a flurry of poets - including William Blake - 20 years ago… Looking back to my younger self it was probably because I thought poets, like other creatives, were exploring the human condition with words rather than painting images, and at the time I was trying to make sense of the world. I still am…

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Gillian Holding's Blog...

Artist Gillian Holding is creating some work for the exhibition, and is posting daily reflections on her blog... you can follow Gillian's progress here

Monday, April 18, 2016

Work in progress... Shaeron Caton-Rose

"...Reading about Blake has changed completely my understanding of his world and work. I can’t believe that as an artist I have never explored the ideas behind his fabulous imagery. To me, Jerusalem seemed a jingoistic and embarrassing hymn which I refuse to sign along to. However, I have discovered layers of meaning to the concepts enmeshed in its words and in the ideological icon of ‘the holy city’. I am trying to reflect this in the layers of text which I’m creating towards a projection piece which will be a part of my final piece. There are yet more layers to add…"

Friday, April 15, 2016

Blake's Vision...

John McIntyre is a scholar and a Blake enthusiast, and he's been offering invaluable support, advice and huge amounts of encouragement as we put this exhibition together. We asked John if he could give us some insight into Blake's thinking and the vision that inspired the words of 'Jerusalem', and are delighted to be able to share his reply with you here...


And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green,
And was the Holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire:

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England's green and pleasant Land.


This untitled poem is the climax of the Preface to William Blake's epic poem, "Milton". It is a clarion call to us all to use the creative powers of our Imagination and transform the world we live in by taking up the fight for spiritual renewal against the dark forces of Rationalism and Materialism.

William wrote most of "Milton" during the years 1800-1803, when he was staying in a cottage in Felpham, Sussex, set in beautiful countryside near the sea. Hayley, his patron and friend, provided William with this much needed respite from the oppressiveness of London, where William had struggled against debilitating poverty for over twenty years. He wrote the epic in a spirit of renewed confidence in his creative vision and finished it by 1804. William spent the next years making the engravings: the complete work was ready for publication in 1808.

Unlike the epics of Ancient Greece and Rome, such as the "Iliad", which deal with "corporeal war" and glorify militarism, his epic "Milton" deals with "mental war" (spiritual conflict, growth and fulfilment), which he calls "mental fight" in the untitled poem. It draws its inspiration, not from the Nine Muses of the Classical World, but from "the Sublime of the Bible": the Divine Vision.

"One power alone makes a poet: Imagination, The Divine Vision."

Within William's sacred vision, God is Imagination:

The destructive weapons and the so called "heroic" acts of military warfare will be replaced by the creative powers and works of the Imagination, which will triumph over "these dark Satanic Mills" and build the perfect world of spiritual enlightenment, Jerusalem.

On the literal level, the "dark Satanic Mills" are the huge factories of the Industrial Revolution: on the symbolical level, they signify the systems of thought, which have not only gone into building them, but also  have gone into attempting to build the architecture of a mechanical and materialistic universe in negation of the Divine Vision.

Within Blake's visionary world, the mill is a symbol of Reason, which acts solely on empirical evidence and drives everything to its ultimate, logical conclusion. And destruction! It grinds and reduces Imagination (God), Infinity and Eternity into measurable, labelled quantities, like bags of flour. It is the logic that creates Abstract Philosophy, Dogmatic Religion, and Materialism, which inflict grievous suffering upon humanity.

 For Blake, 'The Age of Enlightenment' ('The Age of Reason'), spurred on by Newton's ideas, is 'The Age of Darkness' which comes between humanity and the Divine Vision, like clouds obscuring the sun. Reason should be used, not to repress the power and energy of the Imagination, but to work with the Imagination in the creative act.

 The poem is permeated with Biblical imagery (and, in particular, St John's Book of Revelation), which William uses to create the symbols of his sacred vision. He depicts himself as a warrior artist, riding in his 'chariot of fire', like the prophet Elijah, and leading us all in the "Mental Fight" to  transform the dark forces of Rationalism and Materialism. The spiritual struggle is fought both within ourselves as individuals (William included!), and outside of ourselves in the materialistic world, which denies the spiritual.

There is a symbolical link between "the Countenance Divine" and "my Bow of burning gold". The golden sun is a symbol of God: Imagination, Energy and Vision. Gold is a symbol of Divinity. By transference, the "Bow of burning gold" is a symbol of the body of William's art, which is burning with the inspiration and energy of the Divine Vision, the Imagination. It is the contrary of "these dark Satanic Mills", that burn and belch out obfuscating clouds of the Materialist Revolution.

 "Arrows", "Spear" and "Sword"  are symbols of the penetrating powers of William's work.Their spiritual insights and truths will pierce the thickest armour and the deepest layers of Rationalism and Materialism: they will open up the darkened minds of humanity with the light and inspiration of the Divine Vision.  Our consciousness will be spiritually transformed:

"If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite."

William is not an elitist: hierarchy is anathema to him. He wants us all to be prophets and visionary artists. When the whole of humanity is spiritually enlightened and creatively active, Jerusalem will be once more. This is William's burning desire, which he expresses very clearly at the end of the poem, when he quotes the Bible:

" Would to God that all the Lord's people were Prophets."  (Numbers xi, ch. 29 v, xix)

Let us always remember his call to be "just and true to our own imaginations, those Worlds of Eternity in which we shall live for ever, in Jesus Our Lord."

William leaves us in no doubt that Jerusalem will be built, and it will be built ''through the radical regeneration of each person's own power to imagine" and the liberation of our Creative Energy. Freed from "the mind-forged manacles" of Rationalism and `Materialism, we will all bring  about the New Age of True Enlightenment, Jerusalem, that will last forever.

 "Imagination is Eternity."

We will fulfil the Infinite Potential of Creativity within us and experience true happiness in "those Worlds of Eternity" of the Imagination.

"Energy is Eternal Delight.

And,Yes! Jesus, our Divine Humanity, will walk upon England's mountains green! He will come again through our creativity, and he will be re-united with his bride, Jerusalem, the manifestation of the Divine Vision in us all.

"The Eternal Body of Man is the Imagination, that is, God himself .. "

The Real Revolution starts now! It starts with us! Here! In England's green and pleasant Land! It will change the world forever and it will transform the Universe! It is inspired by a Vision that transcends the mere here and now of a corporeal Utopia. It opens up for us those Worlds of Eternity, to which we really belong and for which we long so much.

Will you join in the fight to regain our Divine Humanity and build Jerusalem once more?

The Divine Image

To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Meet the Artist... David Honeybone

And did those feet

In my mind 'Blake's Jerusalem' has long been confused  with 'Parry's Jerusalem' at my school's Founder's Day. I saw the invitation to take part in this project as an opportunity to reclaim the inspiration of the words from a world where 'building Jerusalem' was treated much the same as doing well in exams or playing for the First XI (I managed the former but not the latter)

So the words had to be part of what I made. And then I thought of the 'William Blake: Apprentice and Master' exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum last year, when I was fascinated by his method of incorporating text into his plates. And so the idea of a book soon followed, and with it a series of obvious but awkward questions. How to do the lettering? - it had to be mine, not printed, but I am no calligrapher . And what images, literal or metaphorical, figurative or abstract, would do the job and capture something of the emotion and spirit that was so lacking all those years ago in High Barnet Parish Church in North London?

Blake's own imagery and colours remained a bit of a problem for me - in his preface to the poem 'Milton', where the words of Jerusalem appear, pink, yellow and blue predominate, not a combination that immediately appeals to me. And I find his figures somewhat overblown, verging on the grotesque.

A day at the West Yorkshire Print Workshop earlier this year set me on the path of a series of monoprints with ordinary hand-written text (a bit of inspiration from Tracey Emin there)

The work is in progress. Decisions about colour are emerging, in large part inspired by the find of a piece of superb quality Hainsworth woollen cloth in a brilliant royal blue which has to be the cover. And taking inspiration from such a beautiful thing from a mill, ideas about industrial images have influenced the designs for the prints, and I have persuaded myself that blue, pink and yellow might work. Here's a rough sketch of a possible title page.

There is a lot more work to do but I am beginning to feel that the dead weight of Founder's Day is being lifted from those wonderful words.

David Honeybone
11 April 2016

Friday, April 8, 2016

Lino-printing with Y6, Gledhow school

We've been working with y6 pupils at Gledhow school to make some lino prints for the exhibition. Here's a few photos of the work that went on there...

Monday, April 4, 2016

Meet the Artist... Andrew Lister

Exhibition curator Si Smith chats with contributing artist Andrew Lister about the thundering words of the Church, moments of daftness, and the serious business of Play...

Si: Hi Andrew, and welcome to the exhibition blog.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Andrew: I am a studio holder at Patrick Studios in Leeds. 
My work is essentially drawing, painting and constructed inlays that make use of many different found materials.
The  subject matter of work in my exhibition last November in The Shed Gallery, Ilkley, was art history.
The work in my next exhibition in Batley Art Gallery is about the powerful and their weapons and their victims.*

Si: Your piece for the exhibition is called 'The Holy Lamb of Rauschenberg'... can you tell us about it?

Andrew: The Holy Lamb of Rauschenberg came into being when I was playing in an idle moment with my toys, a pile of toys that are a remnant of my junk dealing days.
But although it was made in careless way it does reflect two very important interests of mine: Christianity and Art History.

Robert Rauschenberg, long a favourite artist, famously put a vehicle tyre around a stuffed angora goat in one of his combines (see above)
Brought up going to church four times a week I have spent much of my adult life assessing and analysing my relationship with Christianity.
The Holy Lamb of God is for me a powerful image. 
The power derives in no small way from the words of Blake sung many times in my childhood and youth.
It is therefore no surprise that in a moment of daftness I should put a tiny tyre round a tiny lamb and call it The Holy Lamb of Rauschenberg (below)...

Si: It's a lovely little (really little) piece, and I'm looking forward to seeing it in the exhibition, especially up against some of the larger works. 
That contrast in scale is going to be really interesting...
Meanwhile - and picking up on something that you said there - I'm intrigued by the place that Playfulness has in your creative process...

Andrew: I did the writing part of my MA on art and play - the humour part, if you believe Freud, is a serious business! 
My study was of aesthetic play and strangely what a hard task master it is.
I read bits of philosophy but mainly Schiller, Freud, Barthes and Marcuse. It strengthened my belief that the stronger the internal dialogue of the artwork the stronger the aesthetic. 
In simple terms this means that, for example, political ideas are best excluded from the work because they make the dialogue external. 
All games require rules or laws and in aesthetic play these rules evolve and demand recognition. Adherence to them gives the work integrity.

Si: And having a pile of toys and stuff to mess around and play with is, I guess, an important part of that creative game-playing...

Andrew: I bought and sold junk for 15/16 years from a shop, and I was left with a lot of interesting stuff which as Rauschenberg will testify I still make use of.
The other legacy was the handling of so many objects hand made and manufactured usually of little monetary value.  It allowed me to see so much quirky stuff and so many different ways of hand-making objects. 

Si: At our exhibition last year, I remember you telling me that you visited St Edmund's when you were a pupil at Roundhay school (quite a few years ago now...) for school concerts and events.
I like that historical connection with the venue that you have there...
So one last thing that i was wondering about is your relationship to Christianity...

Andrew: I was a choir boy and this involved being in church 3,4,5 times a week. 
As a child and young teenager I did not question the faith but fell out with the church because of the contradiction as I perceived it between the words in the church and actions outside it - of individuals and the corporate body.
I left the choir and left the church but with its words thundering on in my head. 
Years later I had a compulsion to study the Texts and analysis and so come to some kind of conclusion about what I believed and what it meant to me. 
My conclusion is not special: Jesus was a good man who is misrepresented. 
What a destructive philosophy in the hands of the powerful, including the Church, has been concocted from his words. 

Si: And I think that William Blake would probably agree with you there...


*Batley Library and Art Gallery
Market Place
Batley WF17 5DA
01924 326021

Exhibition Dates: 7th November to 19th December 2016