Lessons from Barnsley

In my previous post I noted the general feedback from the residential in Barnsley, this post is a personal reflection from it.

There were many ‘take-aways’ of the event; for example considering John Davies’ continued reworking of his oeuvre reminded me of Elina Brotherus’ continued editing of her work, re-ordering and revisiting both the image and the site. Though John never offered a ‘reconsideration’ of the scenic representation, I wondered if his appreciation of the landscapes that he has re-framed is similar to his self-professed slight re-alignment in his political sensibility. It is said that as one gets older those of the ‘left’ move ‘in-field’. I was reminded also of a peer, that of Peter Kennard, who hasn’t moved and whose work is still as critical today as it was when he started. Different people, different circumstances. I wrote about Davies’ Arles exhibition here and it was interesting to go back and review my thoughts post this weekend’s activities. My view on his work hasn’t altered a great deal, nor I think has his work. Melancholy for a time now turned, much as his favoured medium has had him reaching now for digital capture.

Feedback from my crit’ session was interesting. I had purposefully placed the ‘Purgatory’ set out and placed alongside it some new work that included both my sons with their sons. The aesthetic was clearly different and this seemed to jar with those who commented. But also the setting. Laura Pannack suggested that they had a ‘Stock-like’ appearance, by which I assume somewhat clichéd, they were brighter/lighter and any nuance that I had hoped for seemed to be lost. I had thought about something that Sharon had suggested, about an episodic nature to the work, but that also fell short – the few shots that I purposefully made that were intentfully poetic seem to missed their mark also. I’m wondering whether the strong aesthetic of the ‘Purgatory’ set is too strong, whether to let that go in order to make a more coherent set from scratch. Other suggestions about more research into other father/son relationships were suggested. I have read Turgenyev’s Father and Sons a long time ago but rejected it as a source because of the twin narratives of him and his father, both seemingly coming of age (the father again) and so I continue to search for fictions that I might use to tell stories about truths.

I agree about the setting for these narrative fictions. I need to find an alternate ‘place’. Purgatory was such a gift that it might be too strong, but equally I think that where I had the session might be too bland, too clichéd.

When Laura Pannack talked about her work I felt the linear narrative that she spoke of and she also talked about listening to your own voice. When I started this BoW, my internal voice was very loud on the subject, but somewhat confused. I sense that as I have progressed, that voice has quieted somewhat and the confusion is of a different sort. I need to make some more work to try and make sense of what that confusion is. I haven’t done anything on the tattoo ‘front’ recently and maybe that might help to clear the vision in front of me. Laura also said about getting work out there, as it is part of the process of getting work out there! I am putting “Purgatory” into a selling show at the Churchill on 1st August for a month. It will be interesting to see if that does anything. I am aware that August will likely be a slow month, but some of the work has already sold and the setting is fundamentally stronger that the Nuffield and will be the best place I have hung work.

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9 thoughts on “Lessons from Barnsley

  1. The problem is that to be a ‘son’ there has to have been a ‘father’ even in this modern age and in a notional sense. Experienced; imagined, re-examined and wrought anew.

    Regarding the aesthetic. Does the intently poetic have to be lighter and brighter? I’m asking this because something just occurred to me. I still talk of my children as ‘my children – in fact there don’t seem to be any other ways in which to describe them. Yet they are adults in their own right so I’m experiencing them in parallel worlds somehow.

    I think it’s a good idea to make some more work (says she who is full of ideas but little inclination!).

  2. Perhaps it’s simply (says he!) that you found an appropriate metaphorical context through which to explore/express your relationship with your father but have yet to find the context – metaphorical or otherwise – through which to move on to your relationship with your sons. Keep looking and making work and it may (or may not) come to you. You certainly won’t force it – as you well know, I realise.

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