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Material Manifestations

23 Feb

By Louisa Elderton


As a phrase, ‘surface noise’ seems to speak to the physicality and materiality of printmaking, to an artist’s exploration of the medium’s potential, and to the epidermis of a print which exists in dialogue with the accumulated layers of activity that rest beneath. Jerwood Encounters: Surface Noise is a medium specific exhibition which highlights the sheer diversity of artworks that contemporary printmakers are creating; works which cannot be reduced or contained by a single word, but encompass the sculptural, painterly, ephemeral, tangible, illustrative, drawn and photographic — at times simultaneously.  Indeed, printmaking is not a peripheral artistic practice hovering at the edges of fine art, but an embedded medium within this paradigm that deserves focused analysis. It allows for a material process of play, experimentation and exploration, often resulting in both a finite and contained object but also a multifaceted work that leads the viewer down a number of different interpretative paths.  

The way in which print materially manifests in the works of Michael Fullerton, Carolyn Bunt, Claire Bayliss, Claire Barclay, Scott Myles, Janne Malmros, and Dorothy Cross are intriguingly varied, resulting in a textural and energised exhibition, foregrounding the hubbub of activity in contemporary printmaking. At the opening of the exhibition, a visitor turned to curator Gill Saunders and said: ‘this doesn’t look like a prints show’, [1] which begs the question, what does one normally expect from a prints show, and how does Surface Noise depart from this? The strength of this exhibition derives not only from the range of works displayed and the artists’ ability to push at the boundaries of conventional printmaking, but also from the potential of the works to move beyond their physical materiality to stimulate the material imagination of the viewer.     

The Sculptural  

The notion of flatness can be endlessly associated with printmaking; the flat surface, of the 2D object, hung upon the flat wall. Yet, many of the works in ‘Surface Noise’ dispel this pejorative assumption, as the prints venture into the territory of sculpture, playing with form, space, depth and the physical relationship of the viewer to object.  

Janne Malmros’ artworks are particularly pertinent when thinking about printmaking as a process that can lead to the construction of sculptural objects. In the Truncated Element series, complex patterns of repeated 2D geometric forms have been delicately interrupted, as the artists constructs tiny gold-leaf cubes, folding the patterned squares back into themselves. The works play with positive and negative spaces, with some areas seeming both flat an impenetrable and others fluid and open; it is almost as if they assume anthropomorphic qualities, quietly building themselves from their flat pack state, whilst no one is looking. Truncated Element I (2009) interacts with the structural framework of the exhibition space itself. The large-scale hand screen print is hung like wallpaper, from ceiling to floor, with incidentally constructed cubes seemingly propelling from the walls themselves, forcing a reconsideration of the static architectural space. The wallpaper is not severed as it reaches the floor, but coils back in on itself, forming a gentle circular curve that contrasts to the fiercely-geometric grid. Thus, it seems that the initial 2D printing process that Malmros undertakes ultimately becomes the point of departure for a more sculptural exploration, playing with the latent mass of the flat forms she creates.  

Janne Malmros, Truncated Element Series

Close up: Truncated Element III, 2010

Close up: Truncated Element I, 2009

Images courtesy Jerwood Visual Arts  

The scale of Scott Myles’ The Past From Above (ELBA Blue, Black)(2011) catches the viewer off guard; your mind searches through its memory archives for the object that these colour-field screen prints are reminiscent of. They are in fact giant facsimiles of the manilla wallets which can be found displayed on the shelves of any stationers. There is a certain absurdity to the works, and a wittiness that conjures the language of the readymades but inverts this through the labour-intensive process of printmaking; these are beautifully precise creations which have been printed by hand, cut, folded and then overlaid.  

Manilla wallets are used by Myles in his studio to file and organise his ideas, but here, studio ephemera is carefully recreated to be symbolically presented as the artist’s theoretical containers. We encounter an amplification of the framework within which the artist realises his ideas, removed from its functioning environment. The common-place materiality of these manilla wallets is transformed into high art; severed from any practical purpose, the sculptures are contained by a giant Perspex case and are mounted high on the wall to meet the viewer’s gaze. Transferred into the gallery/museum context, Myles seems to playfully question notions of value, functionality, and purpose by magnifying the pure aesthetics of a common object.  

Scott Myles, The Past From Above (ELBA Blue, Black), 2011

 Image courtesy Jewood Visual Arts  

The Ephemeral   

The material history of print is referenced in the works of Michael Fullerton. Repetition is employed in the artist’s screen prints and methods of mass production are recalled. Fullerton is interested in the protest posters of the 1960s, in their ephemeral qualities and their relationship to craft. He is ‘looking at how people communicated visually’, [2] finding it necessary to reinvent the language of print to talk about the possibilities of transmitting information to an mass audience, and to explore the continuum of information that has been visually communicated from the historical paintings of Gainsborough to the mass produced print of the present day.

In Peel Session, Maida Vale Studios, February 4, 2004 (2004), an enlarged image of disk jockey John Peel is repeatedly screen printed onto newsprint, the image becoming progressively obscured and abstracted. Casually pasted onto the walls, the newsprint is wrinkled in places, the corners peeling away. Fullerton emphasises the lack of skill that he initially had when it came to printmaking, essentially blagging his way into a print studio: ‘it’s getting a life of its own eventually’. [3] The works aren’t about the physical skill of printmaking, but rather explore the concepts associated with print: the ability to disseminate knowledge cheaply to a mass audience using a single colour pigment on newsprint, and the political implications of this. 

Michael Fullerton, Peel Session, Maida Vale Studios, February 4, 2004
Close up: Peel Session, Maida Vale Studios, February 4, 2004

Images courtesy Jerwood Visual Arts

 The Material Imagination  

In many of the works displayed in ‘Surface Noise’, the material surface of the works becomes a springboard into the viewer’s own imagination. In the words of Roland Barthes, a work’s ‘unity lies not in its origin but in its destination’. [4] 

Carolyn Bunt’s prints, And when I looked up it had gone 1, and, And when I looked up it had gone 2, present the viewer with what seems to be an obscured or imagined science-fiction setting, as the pulsating neon framework of a Soviet fuelling station is surrounded by the white-washed landscape of infinity. It is intangible; an interior world. The photographs assume a performative quality as the viewer is invited into the work, ushered to complete it within the confines of their own imagination. The ethereal and intriguing Polymer Gravure works, Dangerous Shadows 3, and, Dangerous Shadows 4 are almost completely abstracted configurations of dark shadows, which in a sense cast us into Plato’s cave as we try to ascribe forms to these hazy-reflections of reality. There is beautiful depth to these prints and the dark surfaces draw you in to explore their various layers, weaving through the graduations of light and dark.    

Carolyn Bunt, And when I looked up it had gone 1 and 2

Carolyn Bunt, And when I looked up it had gone I

Carolyn Bunt, Dangerous Shadows 3 and 4

Images courtesy Jerwood Visual Arts 

Ultimately, the printmaking in Surface Noise inverts the conventional artistic boundaries that bind art forms within fixed categories. Print is propelled into an arena where anything is possible, where the historical associations that can limit our perceptions of print are dispelled, and where the layered materiality of printmaking becomes a playground within which our imaginations can run wild.  

[1] Gill Saunders discussed this conversation at the curators-artists talk, Jerwood Visual Arts, 14th Feb 2011.  

[2] Michael Fullerton quote from the curators-artists talk, Jerwood Visual Arts, 14th Feb 2011.  

[3] Ibid.   

[4] Roland Barthes, ‘The Death of the Author’, Claire Bishop (Ed.), Particiation: Documents of Contemporary Art (London: Whitechapel Gallery and The MIT Press, 2006), p. 45.

Show and Tell: Sharing Stories of Print…

22 Feb

By Louisa Elderton

We are into our last week of the exhibition ‘Jerwood Encounters: Surface Noise,’ and accordingly, we would love to hear your own personal responses to the show. What are your impressions of contemporary printmaking; thoughts about the exhibition’s curatorial thesis; feelings about the works chosen for the show? Indeed, have you seen any recent exhibitions, either on these shores or further afield, that showcased contemporary printmaking? Please do leave comments about print works or print-related exhibitions that have inspired or intrigued you…we are curious.

A Process of Play

11 Feb

By Louisa Elderton

Monday evening saw Jerwood Visual Arts hosting the first public talk in the Jerwood Encounters: Surface Noise series. Chaired by print studio Paupers Press, Catherine Yass and Stephen Chambers RA discussed the medium of print within their own practice, and also focused on the collaborative nature of printmaking, considering the roles of authorship and decision making in the print process.  

Image courtesy Jerwood Visual Arts

Paupers Press was interested in the broad range of practice in London, with there being no single approach to the ‘making’ of an artwork; printmaking is just another facet of this practice, with its own language and process relating to materials. Whilst etching and lithography are the main forms of printmaking that take place at Paupers Press, they recognise the need to retain a flexible response to each individual artist, so that a diverse selection of printmaking techniques might ‘inform, take forward and generate new ideas.’ [1]

Specific themes seemed to continually rise to the surface during this talk, as notions of process and time, collaboration and play became interwoven to form the fabric of the conversation:


Process and Time

Catherine Yass, who curated the exhibition Passing Thoughts and Making Plans at JVA in 2009, discussed a series of etchings that she had produced with Paupers Press, based on film stills taken from Harold Lloyd’s 1923 silent film Safety Last!. She was attracted to a particular scene from this film, where Lloyd hangs from a clock and in turn pulls the hands downwards, forcibly reversing time. The artist began to investigate the damage that occurs to film as it is repeatedly fed through a projector, considering how age and distress can affect the photographic surface of the negative. She made marks on the surface of the film itself, scratching lines into the film cellulose, and resultantly became interested in the potential relationship between this film surface and that of an etching; both necessitate the damaging of something to produce the image, and both start as a negative process (film being created by the exposure of an image onto the negative, and etching gauging negative marks into a plate’s surface).

Harold Lloyd, Safety Last!

Scratching lines into the surface of the film cellulose

Scratching lines into the surface of the film cellulose

 Images courtesy Jerwood Visual Arts

However, the physical process of scratching into the film’s surface did not translate in the etching process as the artist had imagined. The marks made on the film cellulose revealed blurred rainbow colours, and while Yass had hoped that this would also manifest in the etching, it was in fact the areas of white that became filled with colour from the etching plates. The artist was thus forced to embrace the accidental, unforeseeable and unexpected process that printmaking can often present; there is a point at which the materials have a decision making process of their own.


Image courtesy Jerwood Visual Arts

Time, of course, is an implicit factor in the creation of any work, with time value manifesting differently for every artist. Yass and Chambers were intrigued by the idea of mistake making, by the process of producing a number of different prints, and by how mistakes ultimately inform the work. Stephen Chambers described the importance of ‘allowing a moment when something’s going to happen … when time becomes elastic’, [2] when you can let go, engage with the sensibility of the unexpected, and take an idea somewhere new. In the collision between the handmade and the technical, time is the factor that enables multiple potentialities to ensue.


Collaboration and Play

Stephen produced his book of prints, A Year of Ranting Hopelessly, with Paupers Press, creating a print a day starting on Boxing Day, 2005. He wanted these images to be a ‘visual burp … a record of pre-caffeinated thought’, [3] and accordingly his daily drawings and collages were realised as lithographs.

A Year of Ranting Hopelessly

A Year of Ranting Hopelessly

Images courtesy Jerwood Visual Arts 

Similarly, his series Shitty Sisters, 2009, was originally a form of visual thinking, as he would sit with a brush and ink and draw ideas; realising these images in print ‘felt like an exploratory way of just playing around.’ [4] Chambers described how he is invigorated by the energy that comes from the playful process of printmaking, and the collaborative working relationship that the artist enters into when leaving the solitary confines of their studio to venture into the shared printmaking studio: ‘printmaking is a collaboration that is very much knowing that real chemistry/trust/friendship allows me to go places I wouldn’t otherwise reach … like a Ferrari in empty night-time streets!’ [5]

Shitty Sisters

Shitty Sisters

Images courtesy Jerwood Visual Arts 

It seems that this element of play is ultimately what must be embraced in the printmaking process, exploring the interesting potentials and other eventualities that may arise; as Catherine Yass put it, you must ‘take a thought and launch it into an arena where you might not know how best to resolve it.’ [6]

The next talk at Jerwood Visual Arts will take place on 14th February, 6 pm, as ‘Surface Noise’ curators Gill Saunders and John Mackechnie talk to the artists Scott Myles, Janne Malmros, Michael Fullerton and Claire Bayliss about their printmaking practice:

[1] Paupers press, Jerwood Encounters: Surface Noise talk between Paupers Press, Catherine Yass and Stephen Chambers RA, Monday 7 February 2011.

[2] Stephen Chambers, Jerwood Encounters: Surface Noise talk between Paupers Press, Catherine Yass and Stephen Chambers RA, Monday 7 February 2011.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Catherine Yass, Jerwood Encounters: Surface Noise talk between Paupers Press, Catherine Yass and Stephen Chambers RA, Monday 7 February 2011.

Shadow Spans

6 Feb

By Louisa Elderton


Claire Barclay, one of the seven artists whose printmaking is exhibited in Surface Noise, currently has another facet of her practice resonating within gallery two at The Whitechapel Gallery; namely, her sculptural installations. The poetically titled Shadow Spans, 2010, is part of The Whitechapel Gallery’s new Bloomberg Commission series – her installation was preceded by Goshka Macuga’s The Nature of the Beast where an artist is asked to produce a year-long, site-specific response to this characterful space, with its rough and porous exposed brick walls.   

Claire Barclay, Shadow Spans, 2010-11

Goshka Macuga, The Nature of the Beast, 2009-10

 Images courtesy The Whitechapel Gallery   

Shadow Spans groups, or rather, divides objects and materials into three main sections within the gallery, and yet these seem to be intrinsically connected as their shapes and forms create dance-like rhythms that reflect one another. The installation plays with notions of interior and exterior space, and sets into motion the dissolution of this dichotomy. Minimalist forms, echoing window and door-like shapes, define space by creating both physical barriers but also portals through which to venture; the work assumes a performative quality as it activates the space, defining the various angles, planes, heights, blockages and openings available to the viewer, who also occupies the gallery. 

 There is a tension implicit within Shadow Span’s configuration of contrasting objects and materials, as carefully-placed austere steel frames set off the dry-terracotta pots and strewn compost that seem to have been haphazardly knocked from a window ledge; silky draped curtains are printed with cobbled brick patterns which strangely reflect the four solid walls that enclose the area; visceral gold curved handles tempt you to grasp them, caressing their wrinkled surfaces, whilst a cold empty frame beckons you to pass through its negative space. 


Claire Barclay, Shadow Spans, 2010-11
Image courtesy The Whitechapel Gallery
Barclay is interested in both making, but also the idea of unmaking, and this process of craft is important in the realisation of her work. While the artist formulates these dialogues between form and material, she also deconstructs the urban architectural surroundings within which we move and meander everyday. Her work is in flux, not set, and invites a plethora of potential interpretations from the viewer whose presence is implicit in activating this constructed environment. In fact, the participatory presence of the human body is felt strongly within this inanimate grouping of forms, as the debris of life is subtly interwoven with these geometric structures. Top hats, fingers of gloves and bird cages are encountered incidentally as you wander through the installation, suggesting undisclosed narrative histories that require unravelling – or building, even. Barclay’s installation seems to reference Minimalism’s preoccupation with the object and the phenomenological experience it generates, whilst merging with this the appropriation of natural environments.
The forms and motifs of Shadow Spans are reflected in the screen print Pieced Apart, 2010, which the artist has produced for The Whitechapel Gallery’s limited edition series. The hand of the artist is implicit in the creation of each individual print as the colour pigments were mixed and then screen-printed by Barclay at her studio in Glasgow. This same technique is applied to the artist’s five screen prints exhibited in Surface Noise, where the pigments have been mixed and then carefully layered to create complex surfaces and palimpsests of form. 
Claire Barclay, Pieced Apart, 2010

Image courtesy The Whitechapel Gallery   

The performative qualities of Shadow Spans have led The Whitechapel Gallery to commission a series of contemporary dance pieces that respond directly to this installation. The first of these took place at the end of January, as Dog Kennel Hill Project performed Figure Stuck, Stuck. This dance collective comprises Ben Ash, Henrietta Hale and Rachel Lopez de la Nieta, all of whom spent two weeks within the installation in November 2010, building experiences and movements that would lead to their final performance piece.  

As the onomatopoeic title of the performance suggests, a sense of repetition pervaded Figure Stuck, Stuck. A tracing and retracing of movement precipitated a considered reflection upon the actions of the dancer’s bodies. They seemed to explore how variation is embedded in repetition, considering the uniqueness of everyday repeated movements. Echoing the shapes formed by the sculptures, but never directly touching the works, Dog Kennel Hill Project responded to Shadow Spans as if it were an extension of the cityscape that we move within daily; they thereby inverted the normalcy of everyday movements and activities, enabling these to resonate with us on a conscious and analytical level.   

Henrietta Hale seemed to assume the role of omniscient creator as she observed, or controlled, the clusters of activity taking place within the installation. The audience were separated into three distinct areas, mirroring the grouping of objects within Shadow Spans, and their participation in the performance was initiated as Hale choreographed a dance of words spoken directly to the viewers; she engaged in a subtle play of words, uttering ever so slight changes in the sentence syntax, pronunciation, and choice of words as she rotated her body to speak to each group: ‘feel free to move from your clusters … you may like to move from your cloisters … if I touch myself … will you touch yourself?’ This thought provoking performance simultaneously activated, framed, and merged with Claire Barclay’s installation, and the line between performer, audience, stage and the everyday was entirely blurred at the end of the piece as the viewers moved through the gallery to contribute their own repeated movements to the mix.  

Dog Kennel Hill Project, Figure Stuck, Stuck


Dog Kennel Hill Project, Figure Stuck, Stuck

 Images courtesy Dog Kennel Hill Project 

Click here for video documentaiton of Dog Kennel Hill Project, Figure Stuck, Stuck   

Figure Stuck, Stuck was the first in a series of contemporary dance responses to Shadow Spans; Matthias Sperling with Siobhan Davies Dance will perform from 2-20 March, Wednesday–Sunday, 1–5.30pm, Thursdays 4–8pm; Zenaida Yanowsky with Will Tuckett will perform from 30–31 March, 6,7,13,14,16 and 17 April, 3–6pm. All performances are free and are a great way to experience Shadow Spans before it closes in May 2011.  

Gill Saunders discusses ‘Jerwood Encounters: Surface Noise’

28 Jan

By Louisa Elderton

The heterogeneity of contemporary printmaking and the undervalued significance of printmaking as a central medium within artistic practice is explored in ‘Surface Noise’. With this exhibition, Jerwood Visual Arts are propelling printmaking to the centre of discussions and debates about contemporary art practice; here, Gill Saunders (Senior Curator (Prints), Victoria and Albert Museum, and Co-curator of ‘Surface Noise’) discusses the curatorial impetus of this innovative exhibition with JVA’s Writer in Residence, Louisa Elderton:

Q. What is the significance of the title that you have chosen for this exhibition of contemporary printmaking, ‘Surface Noise’?

A. For me the phrase has multiple meanings and associations – implicit and explicit. ‘Surface’ is an important quality in printmaking and the subject of some debate with the rise of digital technologies. Traditional printmaking processes either leave an impression in the paper as the press forces the paper into the incised lines of etching or engraving, or add layer of pigment on the surface – as with woodcut or screen print. Embossing, cutting or collage might also be employed as interventions which transform the surface of the print. Inkjet printing, on the other hand, has met with some criticism because it is not a print process as traditionally understood in that there is no direct physical contact between the carrier of the pigment (plate, block, screen etc) but simply jets of pigments applied to the substrate from above. ‘Surface Noise’ is intended to capture some sense of this debate but also to suggest a more vocal stance for printmaking, a ‘breaking out’ from the ghetto of print as an arcane craft towards a position which recognises print as just another tool for the artist, and in fact central now to contemporary art practice.

Q. As Senior Curator (Prints) at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), you are responsible for collecting and curating prints that have been produced over a number of centuries – from historical works to contemporary prints. What is it in particular that interests you about printmaking in contemporary art practice?

A. I was interested in and responsible for collecting and curating contemporary art at the V&A for some time before I was appointed to head up the Print collections here, but it became apparent to me that many artists were using print, alone, or in concert with other media, and that much of the innovation in the art world was coming via print media (and photography of course). The V&A has had a remit to collect contemporary prints since it was founded in the 1850s (so we were buying prints by the likes of Manet and Whistler in the year of publication for example) and in the 1950s we were designated the National Collection of Modern Prints. That designation has now lapsed (because of course the Tate and BM are also active collectors) but we have a rich collection of later 20th century prints as a result, and these fired my enthusiasm. Actually one of the areas of contemporary practice I am most interested in is appropriation, and the ways in which artists have looked at earlier precedents in printmaking to inspire new work (Paul Morrison – Dürer and 15th century printed herbals; Chapman bothers and Goya; Glenn Brown and Rembrandt etc) so I’m ideally placed to make links between historic prints and contemporary practice.

Q. How do you feel ‘Surface Noise’ might dispel preconceived notions of printmaking being associated with reproduction, or even mass-production?

A. I think the scale, physical character and medium of the works here will effectively dispel most of the pejorative associations with reproduction, but it is also an opportunity to explore with audiences – especially at the talks – some of the contradictions inherent in the use of print media, to explore also the concept of ‘original’ versus ‘reproduction’ and ‘unique’ versus ‘multiple’. The exhibition alone cannot do the job but it gives us the wherewithal to debate the issues.*

Q. In the exhibition catalogue you quote Allen Jones, describing how the crux of originality in printmaking lies in it’s being conceived for the specific medium in which it is executed. This implies that the medium itself is an intrinsic part of a work – perhaps even before it has come into physical existence – not merely a means of producing an artwork. Why do you think general preconceptions of printmaking might obscure the notion of process or originality?

A. Printmaking was invented to make exact copies, to allow the distribution of information and knowledge in the sciences, in medicine, in politics and religion so the general preconceptions are inevitably bound up with these origins. This is by no means a bad thing and artists can exploit reproducibility as part of their enterprise; equally they can distort the potential for reproducibility in many ways, through the process itself, modifying the finished print or the printing place/block between each impression, or by printing on a variable substrate, or indeed through a decision to limit the ‘edition’ to one unique piece.

Q. Printmaking is such a broad form of artistic practice, encompassing strategies from photography, film, painting, performance and sculpture; do you think the term itself is an insufficient means of communicating the complexity of this medium?

A. Yes, it does now encompass a multitude of media – but it has always been pretty wide-ranging since even within those media defined conventionally as ‘print’ you have an extraordinary range of processes which require more or less skill, more or less technological know-how or equipment. I like the idea that the term embraces everything from a hand-print or a potato-cut print to a lithograph or a polymer photogravure, and the adoption of other strategies is just that – it doesn’t mean that the term itself is redundant.

Q. How do you think the development of new-media technologies and digital print has affected more traditional printmaking processes?

A. By and large I think it has simply enriched the possibilities for the artist, supplied yet more tools in the tool-box of available options for expression and realisation. In some cases the new technologies enable older technologies – just as photographic processes transformed and increased the potential of screen-printing and lithography, for example. The only danger, I think, is that the use of digital technologies in reproduction may reinforce some of the prejudices against printmaking generally and perhaps undo some of the public understanding of print as a medium for original expression.

* The first talk in the ‘Surface Noise’ events series will take place on 7 Feb, 6pm, with MikeTaylor of Paupers Press discussing the collaborative printmaking process with artists including Catherine Yass and Stephen Chambers RA:

A question of documentation…

27 Jan

By Louisa Elderton

'SHOW' Documentation Team


Today was a day of mounting anticipation… 

I met with the team at Jerwood Visual Arts to discuss the form that the documentation of SHOW will take. This exhibition is the next in the ‘Jerwood Encounters’ series and will explore the integral role that performance plays in an artist’s practice, and its subsequent representation in an exhibition context. Edwina Ashton, Jack Strange and Bedwyr Williams have been commissioned to produce new works, and the exhibition will stage the interweaving of performance, documentation and interpretation. Questions about the experience of performance art will be raised, considering the role that the spectator, or participant, plays in activating the work.  

Text, image and film will combine to document the performances and will be present within the gallery space itself, perhaps even claiming elements of performativity in their own right. Consider the relevance of both action, but also non action within the context of performance art; are the static moments of calm between motion and activity as relevant as the staged performance itself? We are thinking about the whole experience of a performance, contained within the paradigm of the exhibition but also spilling out beyond these boundaries, beyond these space limits and time barriers. 

The ephemeral nature of performance art will be examined through these interdisciplinary documentary processes. What is lost if the visitor is not experiencing the performance within real time and space? At what point does a performance start and finish; when might it become lost within time? 

An exhibition is not just a space for presentation, but also a vehicle through which to raise questions and encourage improvisation… 

'SHOW' Documentation Team

‘Surface Noise’ Private View, 20th January 2011

25 Jan

By Louisa Elderton
We had a fantastic private view for ‘Jerwood Encounters: Surface Noise’ on Thursday 20th January. The gallery was full to the brim with artists, curators, writers and art lovers who all admired the diversity of contemporary printmaking represented in the exhibition. Claire Barclay made time to come down, then having to hurry onto the Whitechapel Gallery where Dog Kennel Hill Project were performing their contemporary dance piece Figure: Stuck, Stuck in response to Barclay’s Bloomberg commission Shadow Spans (this installation is at the Whitechapel Gallery until 2 May 2011). Additionally, I met Claire Baylis, Janne Malmros and Scott Myles who were all excited to have been asked by the curators to take part in the show. Bumping into the winners of the Jerwood Painting Fellowship was wonderful as I managed to speak at some length to one of the three winners, Corinna Till. Her work is playful and thoughtful, and breaks down the boundaries between form, medium, representation and reality. You will be able to see her new works, alongside those of Clare Mitten and Cara Nahaul, exhibited as part of the exhibition ‘Jerwood Painting Fellowships’, 11 May – 26 June 2011.
For those of you who didn’t manage to make it down on Thursday, here are some photographs to stimulate your vicarious experience.

'Surface Noise' Private View

'Surface Noise' Private View

'Surface Noise' Private View

'Surface Noise' Private View

‘Surface Noise’ Private View

Photographs courtesy of Jerwood Visual Arts

First Day Back at School

20 Jan

by Louisa Elderton

As the new Writer in Residence for Jerwood Visual Arts (JVA), my first day was appropriately similar to embarking on the first day at a new school, full of nervous excitement, and proved to deliver a treasure trove of fresh experiences and surprises. I say appropriately, because part of my induction included a guided tour of Jerwood Space, (which hosts the programme in its gallery spaces[1]) during which time the history of the building was progressively unravelled for me, revealing how we were in fact occupying the cavity of an old Victorian school building. As a contemporary art writer and curator, I have admired and engaged with the exhibitions and events programme organised by JVA for many years, and yet, having never ventured beyond the galleries and café, I found myself fascinated by a vital aspect of Jerwood Space that had never previously entered my consciousness, namely, its pivotal role as a purpose-designed rehearsal studio space for the performing arts.

Accordingly, I wanted to dedicate a few words of my first ever post to the history of Jerwood Space site itself, in turn highlighting for readers the raison d’être of this art space, and the place that Jerwood Visual Arts occupies as part of this initiative – perhaps this story is already known to many of you, in which case, I am merely openly laying the foundations for my expanding conceptual engagement with the activities that take place within Union Street’s arts hub. As Imogen Lee so eloquently puts it in her essay examining the social and cultural history of the Jerwood Space site: ‘The space we stand in cannot be the space we stood in. It has shifted; it is shifting; and it will continue to shift’. [2] Built in the early 1870s as the Orange Street School, this red-bricked Victorian building was originally designed to house over 800 students, and the existence of these children is still felt in the space’s architectural nuances. As I wander around the building’ exterior I see sharp-brick corners that have been rounded off just up to the height of the tallest child — these seem to carry memories (or imaginations?) of how these children may have once measured themselves against these bevelled bricks; in the winding tile-lined stairwells, speckled-grey chips adorn the walls where the children would have push themselves off to gain momentum for the next flight of stairs to be descended. These surfaces act as a palimpsest that tells the tale of a century’s own mark making, and render the hidden history of the building once more visible.

Damaged in the Blitz and subsequently all but forgotten, the Jerwood Foundation acquired the building in the 1990s — attracted to the area by the snowballing renewal taking place in Southwark, with both the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and Tate’s new home in the former Bankside Power Station — and opened Jerwood Space in 1998. [3] It has since become regarded as one of the most significant rehearsal spaces in London for theatre and dance companies, and it is within this context that Jerwood Visual Arts exists. The galleries occupy the former Orange Street School wash house (photographs of the gallery as a ‘work in progress’ show the arrow symbol formed by the building’s structure that remains today, and the artist Patrick Coyle utilised this element of the building in his exhibition in the Jerwood Project Space), [4] and it is these former sanitised spaces that today enable a creative platform for a vibrant community of artists, writers, curators and thinkers to play, experiment and realise ideas.

I am writing to you now in my role as JVA’s first resident writer and thus the walls of this building will envelope me and allow me to play out my own story within them; the physical walls of Jerwood Space and the cyber walls of the JVA blog will be my home for the next three months. I aim to open up the wider contextual debate around the issues raised in the JVA exhibitions and events programme, and create dialogues with the activities of related arts organisations, highlighting national and international trends. Surface Noise is the next exhibition in the Jerwood Encounters series, a programme that explores themes or forms of practice that exist in the pockets between the main disciplinary fields of JVA’s programme. Curated by Gill Saunders (Senior Curator (Prints), Victoria & Albert Museum) and John Mackechnie (artist and Director, Glasgow print studio) this thoughtful exhibition presents works by a diverse mix of both established and emerging artists to explore the potential of printmaking in contemporary art today.

Quietly interrupting the installation process to see some of the works being delicately removed from their plastic bubble wrap shells, I observed how the ontology of printmaking — and the spectrum of artistic practice encompassed by this one word, ‘printmaking’ — has been subtly captured by the curators. Each artist represented in the exhibition embraces printmaking and utilises it according it to their own needs; the techniques are far ranging and vary from digital and photographic means to layering hand-mixed pigments to produce unique screen-prints.

Preconceptions of printmaking seem still to be tainted with the idea of reproduction, or repetition, translating a unique image into a water-down version that can be mass circulated. Surface Noise offers the notion that print is in fact a medium that has its own characteristics and capacities, which artists are absorbing as part of their practice — as another valuable medium for play, exploration and realisation. I am chomping at the bit to see the finished installation at the exhibition’s private view on this evening (Thursday 20th January) – hopefully see you there!

[1] Jerwood Visual Arts is a major initiative of the Jerwood Charitable Foundation.

[2] Imogen Lee, The Space Beneath The Space,, October 2007, p. 1.

[3] For further information about the development of Jerwood Space, see Matthew Sturgis’ Jerwood: The Foundation and the Founders (Norwich: Unicorn Press, 2009), pp. 83 – 105.

[4] For further information see the press release for Patrick Coyle: Up,