Monthly Archives: April 2014

‘Create, Connect, Converge’

The Spring Show at Avenue Gallery was put together by 23 second year Fine Art and Fine Art: Painting and Drawing students, at the University of Northampton. The exhibition was titled, ‘Create, Connect, Converge,’ and aimed to show a creative connection of a thematic showcase of art work inspired through the non-visual arts. Working on a set date for the show (18th March – 21st March), the students had to fund raise for the show, publicise it, as well as create work. For my role during this process, I was one of the curators of the exhibition and also set up the cake sale for fund raising. As curators we organised the show thematically, as well as harmonising the colours and tones. The show was a huge success, it created a real buzz with a great turnout, including the input of YBA artist, Gavin Turk.


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I worked for six weeks on this 6ft x 6ft oil on canvas painting, that I chose to exhibit for the show, titled, ‘Lady Macbeth: What’s Done cannot be undone, to bed, to bed.’ The primary influence for the painting came from the written play, Macbeth, by William Shakespeare. The play is believed to have been written between 1603 and 1607 and is considered to be one of Shakespeare’s darkest and most powerful tragedies. Macbeth tells the story of a brave Scottish general who receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and takes the throne for himself. He and Lady Macbeth are then wracked with guilt and paranoia forcing Macbeth to commit more murders to protect himself from enmity and suspicion. The bloodbath and consequent civil war swiftly take Macbeth and Lady Macbeth into the realms of arrogance, madness, and death. The play dramatizes the corrosive psychological and political effects produced when evil is chosen as a way to fulfil the ambition for power.   Inspired by Lady Macbeth’s psychological state in Act Five Scene One of the play, wherein Lady Macbeth confesses her guilt shown through her sleepwalking subconscious. She quotes, “What’s done cannot be undone, to bed, to bed,” intensifying her confused state of mind, tangled with guilt for the sins she has pushed her husband to commit.

The painting is intended to convey the chaotic nature of Lady Macbeth’s mind. By using the hair of the female to encompass the majority of the canvas, covering the face, as well as the identity of the female it enhances how chaotic the psychological state of the mind can be. This is mirrored in the format of the image, painted upside down once again heightening the sense of instability, the chaotic nature of the mind. This painting should suggest that there is something quite not right and this is not just a painting of a female with hair over her face, there are much deeper psychological meanings beneath the exterior, another one of Shakespeare’s influences.



Great Expectations…

“On this day of the year, long before you were born, this heap of decay, stabbing with her crutched stick at the pile of cobwebs on the table but not touching it, was brought here. It and I have worn away together. The mice have gnawed at it, and sharper teeth than teeth of mice have gnawed at me.”

Our collective theme for the spring show was to create a response to a non-visual art form. Heavily inspired by the novel ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens I created a diptych that encapsulated the notion of decay, a theme that is imbedded in my personal drawing practice.


The narration of Great expectations explores the characters being referred to and being compared to inanimate objects to describe their physicality and appearance. This motif that Dickens uses explores the characters personality through a physical representation, in lieu of providing the character with an inanimate object that resembles more than a human being. My pieces depict a representation of both the character Miss.Havisham and the house in which she inhabits.

The plot of the novel is extraordinarily tangled and intertwined; this automatically influenced me as my practice revolves around the entanglements of intangible knots. Through a process of dramatic symmetry Dickens creates a fascinating motif of doubles that carry us through as a reader. The elements both mirror and double the knotted relationships that are all interlinked with one another. There are two convicts within the novel, Magwitch and Compeyson, two convalescents Miss Havisham and Mrs. Joe and two young ladies of which are love interests of the main character Pip.  My pieces are a clear reflection of Dickens technique, as a pair my drawings explore the notion of mirroring and paralleling quality. Choosing to produce a diptych on purpose to convey this technique of symmetrical juxtaposition that Dickens so carefully imbedded.

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Dickens creates such an intense Gothic theme within Satis House; it shatters all illusions and romantic preconceptions that Pip had about the upper classes. Miss Havisham’s wedding dress has become an ironic symbol of both death and degeneration. This fuelled my practice and really influenced me to create my diptych, using symbolism and psychical representation. The room that Havisham occupies highlights her past, the wedding dress and the wedding banquet on display explores her resistance to alter anything after being stood up on her wedding day. Her persistence at living in such a decaying environment explores the depths of her twisted and warped character. The dilapidated stones of the house, as well as the dust and darkness of the place that Miss Havisham inhabits explores her destructive nature and how she has allowed both her house and herself to decay and deteriorate.

As a reflection of the narrative to this prose my pieces are a reflection of Miss Havisham’s decaying identity. Each piece demonstrates fraying fisherman ropes. I have produced my works from my own photography. The knotted representation explores the time in which Havisham has left both herself and the room in which she inhabits to decay and decompose. The objects embody the time itself, highlighting the withering and natural process of decaying.

Each piece conveys its own identity, through the exploration of line.  The subtlety of the pencil and graphite medium allow the ambiguous and metaphor meanings speak for themselves. It conveys both the notions of identity and that of a psychical representation. My works can inhabit and explore ambiguous spaces and hold a double conceptive meaning- exploring the literal physicality of the object and its suggested metaphors.

Toolkit for organising a brilliant student art show!

1. Decide on a theme (if required) and a name for your show

For our show Create Connect Converge we had a unifying theme that we all worked towards, which also meant that we created work specifically for the show.  A brainstorming session with visiting speaker, Mel Jordan from the RCA, helped to generate some ideas.

Failing that you could try this:

2. Venue

The space where you have your exhibition can be anywhere. It doesn’t have to be in a square gallery with white walls.  It could be a coffee shop, on a bus, in an airport, in your house – the possibilities are endless.

3. Money, money, money

Fundraising is a key function of the show’s organisation and preparation.  You can do this in various ways including sponsorship from local businesses and organisations, cake sales, gigs and so on. To get started quickly on this, getting a contribution from everyone of a small amount like a fiver will buy some marketing materials like posters and postcards.

4. Make a Facebook event and discussion group

Create a Facebook event as soon as you have decided on the name, date and time of the show. The venue and images can always be added later. And invite everyone you can to the show’s preview night.

Invites need to go out ASAP in order to get that date in everyone’s diaries! An electronic version of the poster or postcard invite is mandatory.

Facebook was very useful as a communication tool and also as a record of the show’s development. It is essential to communicate freely, but bear in mind that it is important to be respectful of each other.  Arguing is a big time waster!

5. Publicity

If you want to distribute marketing material outside of the university, postcards rather than posters, seemed to be preferred by the NN Gallery, Northampton Museum and other local businesses/institutions. You will also need to decide on quantities.  We ordered about 500 postcards and 100 A3 posters.

Press release – who, what, where, when and why?

Keep it concise, free of jargon and make it pop!  This can be forwarded to the university’s marketing department, which means that it will go to all the university’s press contacts and the news feed on the website. If the press are interested they will call you, so make sure you have a contact name, number and email address of a suitable person who is enthusiastic about the show in the Notes to Editors.  You can get a template for the press release from the marketing department. 

If you use the university logo on any marketing material then you will need to have it approved by the university’s marketing department, as it is also important to protect the university’s corporate identity. This is what happens in most businesses and organisations.

6. Create a blog

Our tumblr blog was created so everyone could track the progress of the show.  It is best to keep it updated regularly with blog entries to keep it fresh. Everyone should be able to access it and upload images.

7. Plan your show’s opening and get a YBA to come along if you can

Refreshments: keep it simple – red, white, OJ, water and crisps.

One of the university’s Articulation talks was arranged for the same night as the preview for our show. This could have been a disaster, but we seized the opportunity to get YBA Gavin Turk to come to our show after his talk!

8. Post show and data capture

Think about sending selected guests, curators and other contacts something post show like a CD ROM of the show’s catalogue, for example.

A good quality visitor’s book will have columns for names and addresses, but you could also make postcards for people to fill out and leave behind in a box. This will give you a database of names and addresses of people who are interested in the arts in your local area that you can use for future events.

9. And finally…. Good luck!

Gavin Turk getting stuck into the Hive!

Gavin Turk getting stuck into the Hive


The Hive

Welcome to The Hive

 On the 18th of March second year Art students from the University of Northampton presented their end of year show at the Avenue Gallery, situated within the University. Second year exhibitions are always a chance to see potential, whether this manifests its self in terms of a particular way of thinking, a sharpened and considered way of working that is ultimately a prequel to a finale during the third year experience. Or, recognising a certain style that has the exact same potential to shine and deliver whilst provoking a sense of enquiry along with an understanding of historical contextualisation and realisation of development into the future.

This event was no means disappointing  with a very noteworthy exhibit/performance from an incredibly well matched collaborative pair of students that were working under the heading of ‘The Hive‘ . The Hive Is the brainchild of Ally Johnson and on this occasion was in collaboration with Billy Hawes who challenges the notion of the canvas in a melodic rhythmic way.

Ally has created a concept that relies on much of the fluxes movement with scores given out either by hand or ultimately if one wishes to participate, a score would be collected from a purposeful location. On one of my initial talks with Ally I found out that the Hive is representational of a working beehive with worker bees having a particular role to play within the structure of a beehive. Ally sees all participants as the worker bees thus bringing back results, reactions and responses back to the point of sauce – The Hive. The collaborative nature of the event worked well in so far that two individual practices came together in a way that brought about conversation, questions, performances, and actual making of work in a fun and exciting way.

Billy provided weaving material wound on threading hooks for guests to ‘have a go’ and add to his woven frame. This was a chance to learn how intricate this process is, withstanding the opinion how one should never underestimate a person’s technique and thought processes.



In addition to the weaving the Hive provided envelopes with hand typed instructions such as ‘Hum on the spot’ or ‘Go to the Gavin Turk talk’.  These instructions brought about a charged atmosphere along with trepidation from guests who were initially lightly apprehensive of their pending requirement to ‘perform’. Pretty soon there was laughing and sharing along with a very interesting result with the weaving. As this was open to interpretation from the participants it may be said what happened as a result was unexpected and as much of a challenge to the artist as it was for the participants. Billy’s weavers made sure that the piece itself became very much entwined with the fabric of the space. The warp took on the form of a large structured spiders web, it developed a life force of its own as guests looped pipes, wound around blinds dressing areas of the gallery that possibly were never considered.

The combination of people performing their tasks, weavers expanding into unimagined areas and poetry being read  aloud was indeed a multi-sensory success. It is clear to see the potential and future development that this concept has. Year two has certainly offered both Ally and Billy the opportunity to develop their thoughts and practices in an interesting and thought provoking way. It is always refreshingly exciting when faced with something that is not expected, to see people engaging with the unknown and being non passive spectators but participants that are open minded and embrace all aspects of art and art making.

Congratulations to The Hive with Billy Hawes.