Sunday, 16 May 2010

Delineation: Artist's Statement

We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.
Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation.

Drawing as a representational, factual practice aids us in developing an understanding of our complex world. Series of drawn lines converge to inform, explain and record our experiences of being. I am interested in creating works that suggest a world of the unbeseen; a liminal space in between absence and presence that explores the boundaries of physical, spatial and material states.

Recent works have assimilated both controlled and gestural techniques of mark making. The drawings are a testament to the generative potential of destructive processes; images that begin as representational are repeatedly rubbed away, crossed out or reinscribed, developing and demolishing the image in the same instant. Through these processes it is conceivable that forms of subtraction, however violently destructive, can also be seen as constructive. In Delineation the work explores the relationship between the hand drawn image and the visual language of mechanical reproduction, the drawings inhabiting a space between what is and is not present. Found images are manipulated on photocopiers, through digital printers or photographic processes, becoming source material for the production of intricate analogue drawings in which hand drawn marks replicate the image traces left by mechanised technologies.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Exhibition Update

TBC Artists' Network will produce an exhibition, 'Delineation, Contemporary Dialogues with Drawing', in October 2010. The exhibition will take place in The Crypt, Euston Road, London, and will see TBC members exploring notions of drawing within their own practice and by extension the breadth of its manifestation within the wider group.

It is the intention that 'Delineation' is the first in a series of public projects in which TBC considers contemporary art practice through processes of group collaboration and personal critical reflection.


I am part of the London-based artists' collective TBC. These drawings were a collaboration between fellow TBC member, Beverley Bennett, and myself.

Back to the drawing board

A terrible pun but an interesting adventure. After years of making work with a camera I picked up a pencil and started to draw. I have no idea where this is going but it's keeping my hands and mind busy.

An Analogue Art of Seeing

An Analogue Art of Seeing
By Charley Peters
Exhibition Essay for 'Where Time Gathers' by Dan Fontanelli
Menier Gallery SW1 1RU, 12 May–16 May 2009

The temporal art of Dan Fontanelli gives us a monochromatic vision of the inner city through an explosive mash up of photography, painting, screen printing and the space in between. Using imagery captured on photographic film on long walks through back streets and alleys in London, Fontanelli’s multi-layered photographic assemblages are developed into painted and printed surfaces over long periods of time, sometimes taking years for an artwork to be fully realised. His work records the textures, surfaces and ephemera of the city where the passage of time and shifting geographies tell stories and reveal mysteries in equal measure.

Where Time Gathers is the culmination of a two-year period of production, during which time Fontanelli has created a series of works exploring his personal dialogue with contemporary urbanism. The works are characterised visually by repetitive screen prints of the iconography of modernity—mass transportation, printed media and mechanisation, overlaid with areas of paint executed with the rawness and fluidity of graffiti. In a time when digital processes are a common aid to mainstream photographic production, the works in Where Time Gathers are made using more hands-on methods. Espousing Fontanelli’s work as ‘a rare example of authentic photography in an age of digital fauxtography’, curator of Where Time Gathers Eddie Otchere, a freelance curator of photography who has previously produced exhibitions at the National Portrait Gallery and Southbank Centre, was first drawn to the work through its unashamed use of analogue processes. Otchere explains, ‘the noughties have seen a large-scale migration from paper to pixel, which I have started to see as being to the detriment of visual connoisseurship. When I first saw Dan’s work I was struck by the old skool attitude to visual production—it was like revisiting the warm sound of vinyl after listening to the sterility of MP3s for years.’

In 'The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction' (1936) Walter Benjamin commented on the destruction of the aura of authenticity as plurality of copies substituted for unique artifacts. The process of experiencing reality is modified through new technologies of production. Digital media compress time and space, making it possible to generate a photographic record at the touch of a button and eliminating the physicality of the image from a frame on a negative to a series of pixels existing on an LCD screen. Fontanelli rejected using digital photographic processes from the start of Where Time Gathers in favour of a return to the traditional, embedding the record of his journeys through inner city London with the visual noise of film. Otchere maintains that, ‘we are living in an age where the photographic image increasingly exists only in a virtual sense, young photographers I have worked with have never used film or even been in a dark room. I’m not opposed to technological progress, but I do fear the imminent death of photographic language.’ The work of Fontanelli turns society’s thirst for ceaseless development and technological progress on its head, presenting multiple images of modernity by using processes that pre-date our current understanding of photography.

Where Time Gathers also suggests an allegorical link between the process of Fontanelli’s art production and the current condition of the city. Increasingly the urban environment has come to be understood metaphorically, through schemes of other provinces of human experience that are projected onto the more ambiguous notion of the city. Our cultural perceptions of the contemporary city are indicative of an anthology of metaphors; influenced by our histories, our technologies, and our experiences of time and place. In the contemporary city, the technological revolution has been characterised by improvements in transportation and communication systems. In turn these aspects reduce the limitations of space, making the city easier to navigate and faster to traverse than ever before. The collapse of distance and time in terms of our understanding of the city is explored by Fontanelli during his passage through London on foot. Rebuffing the use of main roads, maps and transport, Fontanelli wanders, like Baudelaire’s flâneur, through the city in order to experience it, regarding what he sees and recording all as texts. The flâneurship of Fontanelli has developed over years of experience in street photography, during which time he honed an observer-participant dialectic through his work—negotiating, surveying and understanding the city through the lens of his camera. This in turn is symptomatic of the contemporary city; CCTV cameras in London can capture one person’s image as many as 300 times a day. Fontanelli’s analogue art of seeing reminds us that although technologies may change, the city and all within it are constantly under scrutiny, and the indelible traces of our passage through the urban space remain long after we have gone.

Where Time Gathers presents a materialised experience of the inner city. The fingerprints of contemporary urbanism are evident on the surfaces of Fontanelli’s canvases as a synthesis of disparate yet familiar symbols, re-assembled to create a non-linear map of a undisclosed journey. The works are a fragmented view of reality, a personal record of an artist’s travels through the back streets of London. Moreover, they are also a form of visual shorthand for a universal encounter with the city and the traces of modernity that surround us; aeroplanes, newspapers, cogs and clocks. We may all paint our own pictures of what the city is but some things will remain constant—technology, movement and noise, all of which we see in the work of Fontanelli. In 'On Photography' (1977) Sontag describes how, since the development of hand-held cameras in the early 20th century, the photographer is an‘armed’ version of the lone walker who is skilled in the arts of watching and investigating. In Where Time Gathers, Fontanelli has perfected an art practice imbued in the traditions of street photography and removed from visual culture’s current love affair with digital technologies; he is ‘armed’ with an understanding of photography that Otchere describes as, ‘honest and true. When Fontanelli takes his camera for a walk, he means it.’


REVIEW by Charley Peters
House Gallery, London SE5 8QZ, 7 April - 19 April

Du.ra.tion, the latest exhibition at Camberwell’s House Gallery, brought a slice of Cork Street art chic to South London in April. Bringing together the work of four artists, du.ra.tion explored the physicality of mark making and the transience of time. Working across a range of gestural drawing processes, surface manipulation and photographic intervention, artists Beverley J. Bennett, Laura Elizabeth Davidson, Sally Jones and Susannah King, used the intimate space of the House Gallery to develop a visual dialogue between time, place and experiential art making with beguiling effect.

Although each artist in du.ra.tion employed a different making methodology, the exhibition constructed a sensitive and contemplative environment for each work to be considered in its own terms, while also celebrating a shared language of interaction between the artists and their practice. All works in du.ra.tion shared a consideration of space and time, but each artist also introduced an individual element of performativity to their work.

The repetitive marks and physical interference of the drawing surface in Beverley J. Bennett’s ‘Tomorrow is uncertain’ (2009) moved the process of drawing beyond two dimensions and into a sculptural encounter with the picture plane. The work suggested a palpable tension between the otherworldliness of the floating paper, suspended from the gallery ceiling, and the rhythmic, aggressive interruption of the surface of the piece with a series of raked and cut marks. The recurrent trace of the artist’s hand on the art work was witness to the physicality of the drawing process, as well as the lightness of touch employed by Bennett to provoke an emotional engagement with the work in the gallery space.

Laura Elizabeth Davidson also interacts with the environment, in ‘30’ (2009) charcoal marks on paper laid on the gallery floor extended to the walls of a small, cell-like space in the House Gallery. The architecture of the gallery became part of the art work, walls completing the drawing started on the paper surface placed at viewers’ feet. The interaction of practitioner, viewer and environment in Davidson’s work created an integrated visual-spatial-poetic experience, heightened by the spontaneous, exhilarating charcoal marks generated by the artist.

In her ethereal images of non-spaces, Susannah King photographs stolen moments of light and exposes them onto fine papers, producing fleeting glimpses of landscapes and their absorbed memory. ‘Shot 01 Overview watered (Concrete with light)’(2009) is a foreboding representation of a real location, but King’s intervention with the photographic negative and printing surface results in a disrupted account of reality, moving the actual into the realms of the imaginary. Past, present and future encounters with space collapse, producing a continuum of subjective experience.

Sally Jones produces images that interpret perceptions of space and time to generate new, fictitious locations. Referencing various sources from film, television and photography, Jones constructs images of fabricated spaces that exist nowhere except in our collective experiences of culture. The series of three prints Jones showed in du.ra.tion, ‘Sitting Room’, ‘Kitchen’ and ‘Bedroom’ (2009), resonated with shared memories of place and past experiences, creating an interface between the invented document and the reality of life.

Du.ra.tion neatly showcased the work of four young artists with the shared concerns of the passage of time and intervention with space. Importantly, each artist featured in the exhibition had an active relationship with their practice, producing works that involved a physical intercession with the art object and a dynamic, responsive dialogue between the practitioner and subject. The physicality of production employed by the artists resulted in du.ra.tion being a stimulating viewing experience – each work revealing an energetic relationship between concept and process. It would have been understandable for a show exploring such significant ideas to have been restricted by the relatively compact surroundings of the House Gallery, but the sensitivity to environment inherent in each exhibiting artists’ practice made du.ra.tion an accomplished and intelligent exhibition.

The Space Between

The Space Between
REVIEW by Charley Peters
The Crypt, St Pancras Church, London, 5 - 21 June 2009

The Space Between explores the emotional, fantastic and transformative possibilities of the liminal, or the transient state in between ‘being’ and ‘becoming’. Co-curators Kate MccGwire and Marilène Oliver, both also showing work in the exhibition, bring together artists Annie Cattrell, Amanda Couch, Richard Ducker, Jan Dunning, Joy Gerrad, Kate Street and Esther Teichmann to develop an exploration of liminality that suggests the otherworldly, abject and shifting boundaries between physical, spatial and material states.

The elegiac setting of The Crypt of St Pancras Church is a pertinent backdrop for The Space Between. The artists’ work, which includes sculpture, video, photography and performance, shares The Crypt’s subterranean passageways and chambers with tombstones and inscriptions to those laid to rest on-site. The ultimate ‘space between’, that of crossing from an earthly existence to a more spiritual plane, The Crypt is an environment imbued with the poetics of death and memory, which itself becomes a silent, melancholic performer in the exhibition. The most notable works in The Space Between interrogate the margins of life and death, human and animal, inside and outside, and succeed in being at once both beautiful and unsettling.

Kate MccGwire employs materials that she deems ‘impure’ to create sculptural forms and installations. Sluice (2009) is a swirling stream of pigeon feathers installed in one of The Crypt’s narrow antechambers, flooding across the floor to form a dark pool of discarded plumage that froths and bubbles at the edges. It is a work of surreal fantasy, the careful placement of familiar objects en masse generating an uncanny scene of animalistic corporeality. The title, Sluice, is uncomfortably suggestive of bodily purging, or the washing of post-dissection cadavers onto a sluice board. MccGwire’s work succeeds through its sensory execution and the disconcerting re-positioning of the everyday, blurring the lines between reality and fiction. The convincing fabrication of Sluice makes it seem viable that feathers can indeed shape-shift into fluid form and be vomited out of an underground spring.

A less visceral examination of the body is provided by Annie Cattrell, whose sculptures exist somewhere at the crossroads of art and science. Cattrell turns the human body inside out, working closely with medical professionals to make visible the ephemeral by-products of the body such as a breath inside a lung, or the physical interior spaces that can only be seen using medical imaging technologies. Process (2006) is an elegant lamp-worked glass rendition of the alimentary canal. Literally making the human body transparent, Process presents a clear view of the physiology of a gastrointestinal tract, but references to its functions of digestion and defecation remain absent. Suspended at eye-level in a recess in The Crypt’s brickwork, the transparent delicacy of Process appears like an ethereal altarpiece, a ghostly prayer to the union of art and science, and what is still left unseen.

Like Cattrell’s depictions of the interior secrets of the body, Marilène Oliver’s ‘portraits’ aim to reclaim the inner space of the physical self. The production of Oliver’s spliced impressions of the human form fall between the thresholds of new digital technologies, traditional print, and sculpture, often entailing the use of medical scanning technologies, such as MRI and PET, to generate an ‘unfleshed’ assemblage of the body. The resultant pieces, such as Family Portrait – Mum, Dad, Sophie and Self-Portrait (2002) give us a privileged glimpse below the surface of the skin. Family Portrait is a group of four ghostly sculptures representing the artist’s family. The figures are constructed from slices of data gathered during MRI scans, appearing like specimens on a microscope slide, and presented with small gaps in between each image, a result of the 2cm increments in the MRI scanning process. In Family Portrait Oliver allows us to see more of the body than we are naturally able to, but she also shows us less—the portraits reveal the inner most secrets of the body, but at the same time, the figures lack solidity and appear to be vanishing in front of our eyes. This haunting work makes it possible to see both inside and through the human body, to a space in between the physical and metaphysical.

The remaining works in The Space Between offer a similarly enigmatic, disquieting and ethereal experience, from Kate Street’s darkly witty wall pieces of taxidermied bird parts and synthetic cockroaches, to Jan Dunning’s shadowy pinhole photographs of hand-made models of domestic spaces. This is a coherent group show, showcasing nine artists whose individual practices obviously share a number of significant concerns. To this end, perhaps The Space Between may suffer from a lack of esoteric depth and conceptual tension, but what it lacks in its ability to provoke mental gymnastics, it makes up for in its aptitude to site the artworks sympathetically in an environment already loaded with meaning. Many of The Crypt’s exhibitions fail to find their own voice amongst the mournful architecture and memorial relics therein. The sublime works in The Space Between, however, succeed in finding an affinity with the setting, and the reality of a fleeting encounter between object and space is surpassed by a fantasy that the artworks could always have been there.