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Calling All the Artists
A little taste of what's to come
It has been a while, Dear Reader, since I last posted. And I’ve had lots of subscribers sign up since then, so welcome if you’re new here. I’ve finally got a break in my teaching schedule and I’m slowly starting to see the wood for the trees again at this mid-point in the term. Meanwhile my thoughts have been spinning away on various topics, and I’ve been itching to get back to The Gallery Companion. I’m really excited about the subjects that I’ve got lined up to write about, so here’s a brief overview of some of the things I’m going to be exploring over the next couple of months.
I know that many of you reading this are artists, so I wanted to give you a heads-up about these subjects in case your work explores similar ideas and themes. Although many of the artists I talk about in my writing tend to be represented by the mega commercial galleries, I would actually like to feature more artists whose work doesn’t get that limelight. And let’s face it, that’s most practicing artists. So I want to encourage you to get in contact with me if your work explores any of the following themes:
Recently I did some writing for an abstract painter whose work is about technology and human augmentation, and the prevalence of Artificial Intelligence. In his art he explores how we understand reality now when the boundaries of what it means to be human are shifting. It’s not a subject I’d thought much about before but he got me intrigued by the idea of a post-human future, and I haven’t decided yet whether it’s frightening or hopeful. So that’s one topic I’m going to write about.
Another subject I’d like to dig into is about nature and rewilding. I met a wonderful artist this weekend whose work is all about this. We had a lovely chat about the wildflowers at the edges of fields that buzz with pollinators, how essential that is. And what it means to exist on the peripheries, to exist on the boundaries. It reminded me of a book I read a couple of years ago by the campaigner Isabella Tree who wrote about her experience of giving her farm back to nature. She created the first large-scale rewilding project in the UK.
I’ve also been thinking a lot recently about conspiracy theories, and how they have moved into the mainstream in our post-truth world. Conspiracy theories are as old as time, but what is new is the speed with which fictions spread on the internet, get repeated and then taken for fact. And that feels a bit dangerous in our current political climate.
Which has also made me think about the emotive power of storytelling, and how stories repeat over and over again throughout history. Same shit different decade. Those stories are of course often based on material realities and have become embedded in our social structures. There’s a couple of examples of those I’ve been thinking a lot about recently,
Firstly, about social inequality and the fact that we don’t all begin life on a level playing field. And how the barriers to getting on and moving up are stacked up against so many kids right from the start. It’s a subject that British politicians like to wax lyrical about, and the phrase ‘levelling up’ is constantly bandied around here in the UK. Social mobility in the nineteenth century was the subject of my doctoral research, and in many ways I find it striking how little has changed. Certainly in terms of how class and social mobility are publicly discussed. I want to think more about how artists have brought nuance to this subject.
Another one of these tropes I’ve been thinking about a great deal recently is the invisibility of older women, how when you get to a certain age as a woman - i.e. from your forties onwards - it’s like you’re not relevant anymore. It’s the subject of a brilliant book called Hags by the feminist writer Victoria Smith, and I want to think about how older women represent themselves and their own experiences of this in their art.
There are a couple more things I’m thinking of writing about over the next few weeks. Briefly, the way in which we understand the world through touch, the knowledge we have of things beyond the visual.
And the exploration of mental health through art.
So, if you’re an artist and you explore any of these subjects in your practice (directly or indirectly) or any of these topics resonates with you, reply to this email and let’s chat. I’d love to see your work. And if any of these subjects brings particular artists to mind let me know.
Please share this email far and wide with other artists and art lovers who would be interested in receiving it or getting in contact with me. Word of mouth is like gold to me.