The countdown to the exhibition begins now. I have finished the last piece of artwork and I have spent the last two weeks planning the exhibition (how to display the artwork, how to project the video and what to present to the public in terms of explanation).
One of the final paintings
The paintings are ready, the clay objects have been fired and they are ready, and the video is ready. I have a week to go. What have I forgotten to do?
Fired clay objects
I have spent most of the last two days pounding the streets of Shrewsbury persuading coffee shops, libraries, theatres and museums to display my poster or fliers. I have also posted ad nauseum on Facebook and Twitter. It is this part of preparing for an exhibition that I openly moan about but secretly quite enjoy. I enjoy bugging my friends about how they simply must come to the exhibition. I like seeing the poster in shop windows. I like checking a press release for typos. I think I know why this is. It is because it makes me feel ever so slightly famous. I quite like the idea of being ever so slightly famous, even if it is an illusion.
I have now finished the video piece for the exhibition and here it is.
The video is based around the five interviews I made with five members of staff / wardens at the Shropshire Regimental Museum back in February for which they chose and discussed an object each from the Museum’s collection.
The video has three elements. Firstly, the background shows my response to the objects’ narratives in the form of images. Secondly, overlaying this I am making the objects in clay in an attempt to connect with the objects and the narratives through art. Thirdly, each part of the video starts with titles which illustrate responses to the objects by members of the public in the form of adjectives and nouns (rather than art, sculpture or images).
To me, the video is about the connections between objects and history, and how we can relate to those through various means: art, images or words.
I also painted pictures of the objects and the exhibition will consist of this video, the paintings and the clay objects made for the video. The paintings and the clay reflect my response to the objects through my need to make art as a way to channel an emotional response to an experience into something tangible. I painted because that is what I do best and that is how I naturally respond to experiences. I deliberately chose clay to complement the paintings, firstly, as I wanted to experiment with a medium I hadn’t used before, and secondly, because I felt that clay was a substance I connected with the First World War. When I think of clay and the First World War I think of words such as earth, basic, hands, brown, grey, closeness, mud, damp, messy, suffocating, claustrophobic, natural, rustic, raw and harsh.
I’m hoping to exhibit the ‘words’ from the public too in some way as I find words very powerful, and I think they can be a powerful art medium, just as powerful as paint, pen or clay.
My version of the Croix de Guerre
Further smaller paintings and clay replicas of the objects I encountered on my trips to visit interviewees for the History Makers project will also be in the exhibition.
One of the History Makers objects
I now have one month to put the exhibition together, promote it and plan the display to go in the regimental museum.
The most recent batch of ‘things’ I’ve had to photograph for the History Makers project includes this document.
Last week, the owner of this object dropped it off, along a number of other objects, at my house for me to photograph.
It is a fairly tatty bit of paper and could easily have been dismissed. However, the owner had framed it so I felt that it must have some importance so stopped in my photographing to read it. It reads: Following message received at 06.15 from GHQ begins AAA Hostility will cease at 11.00 on Nov 11th AAA. Troops will stand fast on the [illegible] at that hour AAA. There will be no intercourse of any description with the enemy until receipt of further instructions from GHQ AAA. Further instructions follow AAA. Line hold to be reported to [illegible] as soon as possible AAA.
It is dated 11/11/18.
When the owner of the document returned the next day to collect his objects, I queried him about this document and about how he had come to possess it. He told me an incredible story. His uncle had found it in a skip in Oxford and he’d only by chance glanced at it (it was amongst a whole load of other paperwork). Upon realising what it was he rescued it from the skip. I was amazed at the luck that this tatty little document of great historic importance had been found. How sad that it was so nearly lost.
As I’ve been getting closer to the time of the exhibition, I’ve been working on fine-tuning the video and also making lots of clay World War I objects. During the last two weeks, I’ve been recreating out of clay many of the Pontesbury things I photographed. This has been an immensely enjoyable, and addictive, experience.
A victory medal
I’m not used to working in clay and I’m not used to ‘making’ things in three dimensions. I’m a painter. This has been refreshing. I haven’t had to think about light, shade, contrast, colour or tone. All those elements just fall into place as I mold the clay depending on the time of day. However, I have had to think about the appearance of the sides and back of the objects, something a painter doesn’t necessarily have to consider. I have had to think about surface, line and proportions. I have to think about practical things such as: whether it will stay together, whether it will break as it dries and whether it makes sense in three dimensions.
For every art project I’ve undertaken since starting the Foundation Degree has entailed me taking up a new media or one that I’m not confident in. At first it was video, then it was animation and this time, as I reach the point of familiarity with Adobe Premiere Pro, it is clay.
The hope is that people who visit the exhibition will feel comfortable picking up the objects, looking at them in their hands, feeling the lumps and bumps on them, feeling their coldness and relating to them in some way even though they aren’t the originals. They are rough-and-ready clay replicas. They are my response to being able to touch, smell and hold the objects.