We did say we’d document Unframed? on these fractured pages, so here it is, some documentation. It all ended a couple of days ago, needed a couple of days to come down from it all, to deal with the experience. Putting on an art show can be intense in so so many ways, hanging your work on the wall and then inviting people to come see it is intense, I don’t care who you are, showing your art is intense – a fellow “artist” (who also fancies himself as a bit of a curator) told me last week that “art was just a business” – don’t really know how an “artist” could actually think that, let alone say it? You pour everything into the art you make, you pour everything into showing it, you sacrifice so much to make it happen, your heart and soul is up there on the wall, you starve for your art, you fight for your art, it matters so much, you go through so much. Putting on a show, even a last minute one like this, is very intense, far far more that just another business move, no no no, art isn’t just another business, I have no idea how a fellow “artist” could say something like that?
Unframed? was a very last minute rush of a thing, a show that happen within a week of the notion being thrown out there, a week for the idea to come together and for it all to happen as one whole. It happened something like this; no format gallery (apparently they like it lower-case, for once that isn’t a typo), no format gallery over in Deptford, South London, suddenly found themselves with a free week on their hands and rather than just shut down for seven days they threw open an invite, they asked if we’d like to make use of the space – what a refreshing attitude – they had the space, it wasn’t being used, they didn’t ask for money, they just gave us their keys and their trust, how refreshing, brilliant! So no format invited myself (I’m Sean Worrall, you knew that already didn’t you?) and another London-based artist, a guy called Hamish Macaulay, to share their white-walled gallery space, to treat it as a blank canvas and make use of the space for a short sharp week. I wasn’t aware of Hamish or his print making at the start of the week, our paths had never crossed, pretty sure he knew next to nothing about me either, buy yes, no format threw us together and why not? Could be interesting, his work looked stimulating on-line and it was immediately obvious that our current colour ranges would at least unite the room. Always good to be spontaneous and just go with it…
South London isn’t my home ground, and the space was a little off the beaten track, but hey, why not? E.mails were exchanged, ideas bounced around, we talked about the idea of working together but that quietly went out of the window as we worked out each other’s way of doing things (I still think a piece we had both worked out could and should have come out of the week, alas it didn’t), I kind of thought the plinths should have been made use of by a sculptor, that maybe a guest artist or two might like to join in, after all both of us were wall-based artists, it would have been good, the guest thing never really came together either, not enough time (or something like that).
We got the keys and the empty room on the Monday, I took some work down there, we threw a few ideas around on Monday, chatted about art and such, we did actually meet for the first time on the Thursday before, but hey, it was at another show and well, you’re making social small talk and drinking whatever’s on offer and blah blah, the Monday in the empty space was the first time we really came together. Hamish grabbed the bigger of the walls, there wasn’t really a discussion about it, I might have liked it, didn’t really put up a fight, wasn’t worth it, we kind of established quickly without really saying it, that besides sharing space we weren’t really going to be working together or reacting to each other in any kind of meaningful artistic way, the notions of an experimental show that has been thrown around via e.mail over the previous weekend kind of quietly went away as things went in a more formally well behaved direction. Hamish declared he needed to work in the space by himself on the Tuesday, he wanted to produce work from scratch, fair enough, i guess this was him “experimenting”, i guess that’s what he meant. He needed space, that was fine, I left him to it, apparently he was in there from early morning to very (very) late at night, in there in the ridiculous summer heat producing six rather impressive one-off print-based pieces of work.
I guess we didn’t know each other, I guess we quickly found we work and think in very different ways, it was all friendly enough, it was very much a case of two artists sharing the space but not really sharing it, Hamish on one side, me on the other, an invisible line down the middle, we never did actually work in the space at the same time, he made his work, I reacted to it in terms of the work I brought in to hang on the Wednesday when he wasn’t there – It wasn’t really necessary to work together, it was a requirement, and it did feel right to not mix the hang, to keep to our own sides. So we took our walls, it worked, at least I think it worked? It was probably a little too formal, a little too polite, it was mostly about what we had on the walls, not really about how we used the space or reacted to each other, I would have maybe liked a bit more attitude and energy in there, it felt like too much of a formal show rather than something spontaneous and last minute, I guess that’s the nature of printmaking though, I think it worked, I think the formality of it all actually worked, I think it did?
Six prints, each one a one-off piece, six pieces made and hung on what I imagine was a very “full-on” Tuesday. The work looked exciting when I walked in on the Wednesday, it looked like a real achievement, it would have looked good if they’d just been pieces produced by Hamish slowly in a studio over a few weeks (or months) before hand, particularly impressive that he pulled it all off in just one day in the space. A meeting of bright orange construction site hi-vis brutalism and natural monochrome, I really liked the pieces. Don’t ask me about the technique, print-makers care about these things, the rest of us are really only concerned with the results, the work looked powerful up there on the long white wall, six pieces, all very much part of a considered body of work, six pieces that worked as one whole, brutalist London concrete, the Trellick towers amongst others – the edges, the shapes. The work went down well with the architects who dropped in later in the week – no format gallery is in a railway arch surrounded by building sites and construction workers, we’re right underneath a tower that’s currently being build, the gentrification frontline, the entry to the new tower is in the next railway arch, the sales room is in the arch on the other side of the gallery, re-development all around – there’s construction workers everywhere. it took a couple of days to break the barriers down and get the workers to come in and have a look at what the two if us were doing, certainly an interesting place to spend a week
On my side of the gallery, well I said yes to the no format invite partly because this is the kind of thing I would on the whole say yes to everytime, and partly because I really needed to have look at my current body of work on a white wall in a gallery and just take the time to stand back and look at it properly. You really can’t see your own work when you’re working in a small studio with all the clutter and the mess and the broken bits of this and that. and so so much of the painting process is about the looking and the thinking, about the stepping back and quietly considering. I do spend as much time in my studio looking and thinking about where the next mark is going as I spend actually painting that next mark. My pieces in the Unframed? show were all painted on found recycled material, on bits of wood rescued from building site skips, painted in frames found thrown out on the street. The recycling is an important part of what I do, I am making some kind of statement about waste and abuse of the planet as well as abuse of the space we co-exist in, about the the way we treat things, the way we treat each other, but that does all tend to overshadow the paintings themselves at times and I’ve really been enjoying playing with light and paint and painting layers of light, I see the stars as leaves, I see it as layers of growth in the light (I find myself wanting to stop all the artdrops and the notions of daily paintings, I’ve concluded a smaller painting on every single day for well over five hundred days now, I’ve left more than a couple of thousand art drops out there over the last four or five years, a couple of thousand smaller paintings left hanging on walls around the city for people to just take should they wish to. I just want to paint the light now, I want to paint layers of growth, the other things are becoming distractions that I really could do without. I kind of got distracted again on Friday with another series of 43 paintings when I should have been working on just one new one (and would you believe it, having just said about art drops being distractions, someone from this year’s Deptford X came along to the opening and invited me to join in this year’s X with the on-going #365ArtDrop18 piece, I love a distraction, one with the art drops)
And so, I hung my work so the room flowed as one, my colour range selected to mirror the work Hamish had already hung on the bigger of the two walls, my formality kind of mirroring his – a hang is important, a room needs to work as one whole, I see so many shows that are full of good work that just don’t work as shows, I really wanted to break down the invisible line that has formed down the middle of the gallery, did it break down? Not sure if it did? Hamish hung his work on Tuesday evening after his full on day of intense printing and such, it was still wet the next morning (it was still wet at the end of the show), the work he produced was kind of exciting, immediate, I hung mine on the Wednesday, some of paintings that had been evolving over the last few months. We opened on the Thursday evening, people came along, wine was drunk, beer bottles sucked on, other artists cane along, old faces, new people, it seemed to go well, we stayed way past 9pm
On Friday I had the space to myself. Gallery doors open, work up on walls, sun out, mess from the opening cleaned up, work table outside, I had planned to drag material in off the street to paint on – found a great door – but that didn’t feel right in terms of how the show had evolved. And so I took the opportunity to start work on a new 43 pieced piece, 43 small paintings all painted at the same time on 43 CD sized white cardboard envelopes, each one with a CD inside. 43 CDs each one containing an old promo or a demo or something or other that has been sent in at some point and was still hanging around here from the days when we has record label and Organ was a much bigger thing than it is now. 43 discs that were too interesting to just throw in the recycling, 43 discs that were unlikely ever to be dug out and listened to again if they stayed in a box here in the studio. The 43 pieces will be on sale at this year’s Art Car Boot Fair, you won’t get to choose the CD, just the art, just the painting, all about the 43 paintings that were started on the Friday on the table at unframed? The music inside will be there for you to explore, but this is very much a series of 43 paintings that were started at the Unframed? show and will be finished here in the next few days.
Friday was great, Friday is when the barriers broke down. The Gallery is a little out of the way, it isn’t the kind of space that passing people are just going to drop in on, there are no passing people, you have to make the effort to go to the space (and thanks to those who did), on Friday the construction workers started to come in, Friday was the day the barriers started to come down, conversations started to strike up, people asking about what we were doing, conversations about brutalism with architects in work boots and polite ties, about performance poetry and hip hop and Jackson Pollock and “don’t tell anyone but I love going to the Tate” with cement covered workers, people taking the art drops that were hanging on the railway arches outside, people coming in to see what I was working on, loads of great conversation, Friday was great.
Friday was brilliant actually, best day I’ve had in an art gallery for ages . Saturday and Sunday was a bit of a ghost-town washout, the rain and the high wind (after weeks and weeks on non-stop sunshine and heatwave), coupled with no one much being at the construction site meant nothing much more happened over the weekend – a couple of pieces of art were sold, more wine was drunk, the show politely ticked on and then trickled to an end, the doors were locked at six on Sunday, the walls were cleaned up, the holes were filled, off went Hamish with his still slightly wet prints in his folder, I stuck around a bit more to clean up, and then came home and flopped in the studio chair (that once belonged to Tracey Emin – everything gets recycled), watched a really good Julien Temple documentary film about Joe Strummer that he made in 2007, excellent film about community and coming together and making things happen together as I kind of sat there getting over the social media post I saw that evening from Hamish thanking everyone for coming to “his” show – thanks for coming to “my Show” he said, “thanks to everyone who supported me through my show” – I kind of thought it was “our” show, I guess the invisible line down the middle never did really break down. Some of that footage in the Julien Temple film is brilliant, especially the pre Clash West London squat stuff, and the firefighter benefit, another world, everyone should watch that film at least once, Clash fan or now, excellent film.
And so that was unframed? I enjoyed it, I liked most of what happened, I enjoyed doing it, especially the Friday, Friday was brilliant, I think we did well to pull it off in such a short time scale, I rather liked the work Hamish made, no idea what he thought of mine. Thanks to everyone who came to OUR show, big thanks to all at no format gallery, to Hamish and his people, to the construction workers and the people from the other arches, to the people who came along, thanks to the other artists who made the effort to come, to the Organ readers from South of the river who we hadn’t seen for years, to the Deptford X people, thanks everyone…. It wasn’t quite as experimental as it could have been, it probably didn’t need to be, it maybe didn’t have as much energy as it need but hey, I think it did do something, I enjoyed it, I look forward to seeing what Hamish does next, I don’t expect we’ll ever work together again, but then again who knows? See you at Deptford X in September or at the Art Car Boot Fair the week before, see you in Columbia Road, art excites, thanks for coming to our show. (SW)