Wednesday, 27 February 2013

'Searching, always' - a group show by arjeea21

As the clock is ticking down towards the closure of the Gallery@49 space in Bracknell, ReOrsa was delighted to have an opportunity to host an exhibition by the diverse group of artists collectively known as arjeea21. I have had the pleasure of seeing this group exhibit in a number of places in Reading over the past few years.  Their shows include a few familiar artists whose work I admire mixed in with a selection of artists unknown to me, always interesting to encounter their work for the first time.  arjeea21 is an artist-led group, open to the region's artists, which meet regularly to offer informal discussions, peer critiques, and skill sharing. Their focus is on contemporary practice and the desire to stretch and progress an artists work in new directions. Their shows include a range of media and styles, often with installations that will interact with the space and small mixed media sculptural work displayed alongside the more traditional 2D mediums. The skill levels vary, offering a chance for less experienced artists to exhibit with the more regionally established artists. The participating artists respond or interpret a set theme or subject for each exhibition, its the skills and knowledge of the selection committee and curatorial team that can then make it into a cohesive show. The result this time was an exhibition that was lighthearted and entertaining, with work that showed dedication and skill in various techniques, but which had an underlying thread of personal questioning running through it.

That could be because the theme for this exhibition was 'Searching, always' which arjeea21 described as "The concept of searching is a fundamental aspect of art practice.  It's a driving force which can sometimes feel like a kind of yearning for something as yet unformed, unnamed. This exhibition will present works which reveal the artist responding to this challenge in individual and thought-provoking ways."  Walking around the exhibition I could see work which addressed the theme in a straightforward manner, responding to the literal meaning of searching, but on closer inspection had a playful, imaginative twist. The best example of this was the mixed-media work, a collection of several pieces that all related to each other as if one installation, of Reading based artist Ingrid Jensen.  As you entered the gallery there was a small book hung as if floating in the air entitled "will shortz presents coffee, tea, or sudoku - 100 wordless crossword puzzles". Its position invited you to flip through the pages and you soon noticed small doodles amongst the margins that progressed to colourful re-workings of the puzzles into geometric mazes and abstract patterns.  If you glance back towards the door these patterns re-materialised as drawings on clear film lined up on the gallery window.  Ingrid describes the work as "an exploration of colour, imposing rules that are allowed too change as the work develops.  These start from personal preferences and prejudices that force unexpected combinations and juxtapositions." 

collected works by Ingrid Jensen (left), Paul Vought (centre) and
Ksenija Krotin (right, in the foreground)

A very literal response to the theme was the work of Paul Vought, his starting point being the thought of what he has always been 'searching' for but has still not found in numerous walks on the beach or in the countryside, an ancient coin or fossilised shark's teeth.  Another work that rung a personal note of searching in the physical sense, given my tendency to always walk the wrong way when exiting a tube station in London and then spend several minutes searching for the right way to go, was the photomontage, assemblage work by Ksenija Krotin.  This was a fun urban land scape of London with photographic images of familiar sites and a rather impressive paper cutout of the 'Shard' giving a sense of perspective to the city view.  He describes his work as "My passion for shapes, light and time inevitably trigger my concerns about the way to transfer them into another media, to express my view of all those events and vistas around me.  I never feel that I fully understand anything, and that motivates me to keep exploring and searching for a new shape in a different light, as a process of tracing thoughts and emotions".

'Searching, always' a group show by artists from Reading based arjeea21 included artists Lesley Brown, Ksenija Krotin, Peter Driver, Gill Goodwin, Ingrid Jensen, Gerhard Bissell, Robert Fitzmaurice, Paul Vought, Christopher Hunt, Helen Lunn, Jerry Lunn, and Roxana Tohaneanu-Shields.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Opportunities, Studios, Talks and Workshops

A lot of information seems to land on my virtual desk these days about art related activities taking place here in 'The Grey Zone'.  So going forward I will try and post as much info as I think may be relevant on a regular basis, the main criteria being it is taking place in the 'Zone' and is either by, or for the benefit of, regional artists.  So if you have information you want posted forward it to for review, please allow sufficient notice prior to any deadlines or event dates, as the postings will be consolidated whenever possible to minimise the amount of posts.  I have also set-up an email notice option on the blog, so rather than remembering to check for any new postings you can subscribe and have all new posts forwarded to your email Inbox within 24 hours of posting. So here's a few things that have are happening now or very soon:

FREE STUDIO SPACE FOR RECENT GRADUATES - New Greenham Arts and the Corn Exchange in Newbury are offering 1 year's free studio (and a very nice one at that) as part of the Studio8 group located on the New Greenham Business Park just south of Newbury.  The deadline for applying is 28 February, more information on the Corn Exchange web site.

PEACOCK GALLERY, MADIEN ERLEGH SCHOOL, READING - NOW ACCEPTING EXHIBITION PROPOSALS - A nice little gallery located within the school grounds, perfect for solo or small group shows.  Peacock Gallery is a non-profit organisation and do not charge any gallery hire fees but do ask for a small percentage on any sales.  More information can be found on their web site or by emailing Marie Norris or Ali Campbell at communityarts <>.   

OPENHAND OPENSPACE ARTSPEAK PROGRAMME - The artists studios located in The Keep, Oxford Road, Reading run a regular programme of Artist Talks and Workshops and they have just posted their 2013 programme for February through July.  This includes a listing for the 'Dodge the Shredder' talk ReOrsa are hosting as well as a number of talks and workshops given by the artists with studios at OHOS.  

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Dodge the Shredder with Emilia Telese

The last in the current series of talks with an 'artist professional development' intent sponsored by ReOrsa, will take place in Reading at OPENHAND OPENSPACE studios. This specially tailored workshop will focus on the landscape of arts funding in the UK, including trusts, foundations and other sources for financing arts projects, providing in-depth strategies in a friendly, supportive environment. 'Dodge the Shredder' is a trademark combination of peer critique forum, funding strategy and proposal writing workshop for artists developing or planning funding applications in the near future, designed to help increase their chances of success when applying to funding bodies and approaching galleries.

Emilia Telese is an artist and writer based in Sussex. Her practice spans several art forms, including interactive and body-responsive technology, film, live art, installation, literature and public art. She is a visiting lecturer in more than ten art institutions in the UK and at the Palermo Academy of Fine Arts and the Pistoletto Institute in Italy.

Places are very limited for this FREE talk, so if you are a Thames Valley based visual artist and know you are able to join ReOrsa and OHOS on the 9th of March, please send an email to to book your place!

This marks the end of the run of talks sponsored by ReOrsa, news about the previous ones including the excellent talk by Jonathan Parsons on 'Establishing a Relationship with London Galleries' can be found on the ReOrsa Projects page here.  We would like to organise more of these events, as we benefit from the information shared and the networking opportunity, along with our fellow 'grey zone' artists who attend.  Given our pending studio closure and uncertainties of the future, a very familiar situation for artists and arts organisations across the UK, I can't say what will happen after June.  But if you've attended any of the talks so far, comments posted on the blog here on interest for future talks, even if they may be at a small cost, would be appreciated.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

More Art in Wokingham

Popped into Wokingham town centre last Saturday as the word on the street is that the arts have a new premises in the centre, I wanted to see what some of the local artisans were showing and have an opportunity to 'buy local' as they say.  Thanks to 'The Cultural Partnerships: More Arts', a local charity that is championing cultural activities across the area, a group of applied artists and painters have set-up a temporary commercial gallery in an empty shop opposite the Town Hall, fittingly called 'The Saturday Gallery'.  It's fitting because the little boutique space is only open on Saturday's 9am to 5pm and though it's small, there is an amazing array of work for sale inside.  There are 8 artists participating in this temporary venture with the shop displaying a range of ceramics and jewellery, lampwork beads to rather fun decoupage furniture, and colourful paintings ranging from scenic to the abstract, some with a graphic design look and feel, many with reproduction prints and cards available.  I think this is a perfect little venue for shoppers in the area to find something original and beautiful, perfect for a special gift for a loved one or a decorative addition for the home.  I wish them every success and hope that this heralds a call for more small independent traders and original arts and crafts people to populate the town centre.

More Arts Saturday Gallery - Market Place

Moving on down to the quieter end of town I sought out the original 'More Arts' Gallery on Peach Street to visit the '20:20 Print Exchange' exhibition organised by Wokingham based artist-printmaker Sue Williams.  In 2009 Hot Bed Press in Salford and Red Hot Press in Southampton started this idea of artists creating an original print which measured 20cm square and were printed in an edition of 25.  All the prints from various groups are collated and redistributed randomly back to those who participate, every group receives a portfolio of 20 prints 'in exchange' from other printmakers.  Since 2009 this print exchange has expanded into a nationwide project involving 30 independent printrooms and 9,800 prints.  Ten artist-printmakers from Bracknell's South Hill Park Arts Centre Printroom participated this year, their work along with a selection of prints from their 'exchange' portfolio are on display in the gallery till the 17th February.

Printmaking, being a graphic art, lends itself to fine line drawing, subtle colours, and particularly the photographic image re-worked in almost a painterly manner.  The range of techniques on show were plenty, the level of skill high, and the subject matter varied. I was  moved by the image of a woman in old fashion dress rendered as a cyanotype print by Louise MacKenzie from Northern Print; captivated by the subtle, rich blacks in the wilted daffodil by local artist Stuart Skelsey using a Photopolymer Gravure print process. I couldn't do justice to the images in trying to photograph them through the framed glass but luckily, if you can't get in to Wokingham before the exhibition ends, you can see the full collection of this years exchange on this Flickr website, all 42 pages worth!  Just as the printmakers get prints returned 'randomly' for participating, visit the Flickr site and randomly select a page to see what printed images appear, fascinating!