Learning From America
Two weeks ago I embarked on a journey to Jamestown, NY, in order to install and create work for an exhibition which was to be held over two gallery spaces from 4th April until 24th April. It was a massive venture into the unknown, which removed me from familiarity and demanded that myself and my work engage with an entirely new audience.
It was a group exhibition, held by SCIBase, which saw over 20 international artists produce work loosely based on the theme of ‘Colonize’. The piece I created contained sixteen foods locally sourced from Jamestown. The intent was to create a cohesive piece of work that would pull foods originating from various corners of the world into an inclusive environment, allowing each food to correspond to each other and to an audience.
So, was the exhibition itself a success? Yes, it was. My work was generally very well received and attracted a lot of interest. A potent mix of providing Jamestown with something they hadn’t seen before and the excitement created by virtue of having international artists exhibiting provided all artists involved with a real satisfaction.
My work responded well both to the environment and to the other works on display. There was a coherence found within the display that was unexpected – as we did not know exactly what some of the work would look like. And, upon spending several days getting acquainted with the exhibition and allowing myself to absorb it, it struck me how effectively the work of Bruce Davies informed my piece. Both our works use memory as a device to drive evocations, and we both utilise non-visual ways of communicating. So you could engage with my piece whilst still being able to hear Bruce’s sculpture, and interact with Bruce’s piece whilst still being able to smell the food I had used in my work. A very tangible sensory assault – informed by memory and the evocations found within memory – was present.
If I was to pull anything negative from my time at Jamestown it would be aimed squarely at the work I produced. Paint making has become part of my identity but I feel increasingly as though I am being predictable. Perhaps it was a subconscious search for familiarity in the wake of embarking on a journey to a place I have never been to, with people I didn’t know. I just feel too accustomed to the practice, and too much within my comfort zone. I need to challenge myself before I seek to create challenging work.
Upon departing, it hit me: Paint making as an avenue of enquiry has reached a logical conclusion. The piece I presented in Jamestown contained further conceptual mileage, as it considered the use of local produce against exported produce and aspired towards a cohesive and inclusive piece of work. The concept of colonisation was therefore instilled into the work successfully. But now what? Food, as a concept and paint, as a concept are rich sources of investigation and inspiration that transcend the practice of paint making.
I decree that it is time to explore new heights. I would suggest that my time in Jamestown affirmed my desire to research new avenues of enquiry in order to further my practice. Looking ahead, I am going to curate and organise a couple of shows around the theme of video games – something pretty removed from my current practice, though the nostalgia and evocations found within video games do resonate with the sensations of experiencing food. I am also going to collaborate with Sharon Mossbeck on a piece for the Liverpool Biennial on the theme of Leviathan. Again, whilst this is seemingly removed from the practice of re-imagining still life there are parallels to be explored.
So, I would like to thank my experience in Jamestown for providing me with the apparatus I needed to instigate furthering my practice. Now it’s time to see what else I can do.