The Pop-Up exhibition at The Cloisters opens on Sunday 24th at 2pm until 7pm. I am very excited to be exhibiting paintings alongside a variety of other artists’ work, which includes video, music and performance. In this post, I will briefly discuss some of the ideas behind my paintings at the exhibition.
The paintings I will be showing are night time street scenes rendered in oil. The concepts behind this series are still very much under development, but one aspect I have been pursuing is the ‘snapshot’ which is emphasised by the quick handling of paint, that momentarily fixes on a detail – a quality of memory.
On the subject of memory, the content of the paintings makes reference to places that are both familiar (to me) and have changed only subtly over the years as if the past still haunts the present. The use of personal, geographically specific memories dating from early childhood in the late 1970s onward informs some of the location decisions of the paintings. Similarly to previous work, the images are a more focused exploration of the country I have grown up in. I have made use of my home town of Letchworth as a backdrop and starting point – this prototype Garden City has been used as an influential design for many parts of the country. The new series explores the nocturnal streets investigating some of the physical qualities such as the transition from monochromatic Sodium light to LED artificial moon lit streets to extracting and referencing the atmosphere, fears and ironies of this post-industrial, post-empire, post-modern England.
Further references and ideas behind the above painting, ‘Path’ , are in a previous post. I have since modified and renamed the painting as the series has developed but most of the information is still relevant. Here is the link: http://www.johnvincent.co.uk/wordpress/?p=1422
For the second year running, I will taking part in a group Pop Up Art Exhibition at The Cloisters in Letchworth Garden City.
Last year I showed video work relating to the previous ‘Alternative Letchworth’ exhibition, this year I will be showing my most recent series of paintings – night time images of the Garden City and surrounds – alongside other artists work which will include painting, sculpture, performance and video work.
The Cloisters is a visually impressive building (inside and out) with a fascinating history. It is located on Barrington Rd in Letchworth, a short walk from the town centre.
I am finishing off two other works in preparation for the show at my new studio in Letchworth. ‘Eastcheap Studios’ opened earlier last month and is a creative base for a group of locally situated contemporary artists producing some very exciting new works.
HOW TO GET THERE
Letchworth can be reached from Cambridge or London (via either Kings Cross or St Pancras) by train, or off Junction 9 on the A1(M) by car.
The Cloisters, Barrington Rd, Letchworth Garden City, SG6 3TH
See the above poster (designed by Callum Abbot) for further details.
In 2016 I was commissioned to create a film for the Broadway Gallery in Letchworth Garden City. ‘The Last of Letchworth’ featured in the ‘Alternative Letchworth’ exhibition at the Broadway Gallery and is now available to watch online via Vimeo (see details at the end of this post).
The Research Behind The Film
In a review of the exhibition in Dezeen, Owen Hatherley described the film as “a hallucinatory film in which a toga-wearing figure limps through the garden city.” Clearly he was not entirely sure what was going on so to help, here are some key points from the research behind the film’s somewhat surreal narrative.
The film opens in the morning with a red sky. The central character in the ‘The Last of Letchworth’ with his shepherd-like appearance is loosely based upon recollections of an early Letchworth resident – Earnest Edward Ironside. He was a simple lifer who, according to the recollections, would walk along the Pix Brook wearing sandals, a loin cloth and walked with a crook. For the purposes of linking the film stylistically to one of the main archive images in the exhibition, he wears a toga more akin to this image: http://gardencitycollection.com/object-lbm1158-1. The character to the top right in this image represented the simple lifer, often referred to as ‘cranks’. Cross-referencing with other records allowed me to pinpoint the position of Ironside in relation to the Pix Brook and his possible route. Choosing specific locations was an important factor in the making of the film.
Ironside is symbolic of the steady decline of the early pioneers’ way of life leading up to World War I. The explosion, part way through his journey, references a bomb dropped on Letchworth (albeit in Willian) during World War I by a German Zeppelin.
Ironside is also followed by another character in the film, William Gaunt. Gaunt takes on various forms in the film, including an animated version of a 1940’s poster (See: http://gardencitycollection.com/object-lbm1150-2) and an incarnation of the WWI Zeppelin itself. Gaunt is represented as the figurehead of a First Garden City Ltd actively opposed to the simple lifers, fearing at the time that they may deter businesses from coming to the town.
The film is intersected at the point where onlookers come to watch the simple lifer Ironside by the appearance of Miss Black. Black lived along the same road as Ironside but was a starkly different character. From the recollections she had a dislike for children (her line ‘King Herod was the wisest man that ever lived’ indicates quite a disdain for youngsters) but most interesting it was rumoured she had two homes, ‘one for herself and one for her cats’. This rumour is partly backed up by cross-referencing with directory listings from the time – she is indeed registered at two neighbouring addresses in 1916. Her significance in the film will be discussed later.
Ironside comes to the end at a point where it is visible that the Pix Brook has been slowly covered over the years, burying an aspect of nature under the tarmac of a car park. The real life Ironside died in 1916 mid way through WWI at a time when attitudes in Letchworth were changing and the early pioneer days were at an end.
A fourth character based on Charles Purdom, exists in the background and informs much of the film with his ideas of the ‘spirit of the place’ and the ‘Wolf Gaunt’ through his work as a clerk for the First Garden City Corporation and as an independent writer. As far as I could see, he sat somewhere between the attitudes of the business minded and simple life communities. It is almost as if his character is a silent narrator in the film.
Ghosts Through Time
I was interested in creating a time traveling aspect in the film where the characters would phase in and out of their time and ours. I was also interested in location. I chose locations in Letchworth that matched closely to the places I had once lived and localised the research to those points.
Ironside is continuously tracked throughout the film as if electronically tagged. A suggestion perhaps that today, someone with his ideas and way if life would be face suspicion and derision.
I used to live close to Wilbury Road on Grange Road where three of the four characters used to live. New meaning was added to another road I was very familiar with – Gaunts Way (at the far north of the Grange Estate) but the most astonishing discovery – and with a fear of sounding like a crank myself – a real life (childhood) experience of a scary apparition of a Victorian woman whilst living on the Grange was the central reason for including Miss Black. Living only a stones throw from the house where Miss Black used to live – could that have been her coming back to haunt the local children? A coincidence I could not let go.
Showing in its original form with text from the exhibition, and some minor audio corrections, here is a link to The Last Of Letchworth:
Yes. It is that time of the year, so here is where I am at…
Despite other commitments and developing work in digital media, I have maintained my oil painting practice and have completed my first in a new series of paintings.
The above painting is drawn from the town in which I live. ‘The Streets Have Teeth’ painting is based upon a part of the town I am familiar with. The murals on the wall appear to be aimed at children but, by sharp contrast, are the pyramid structures on the ground in front of the murals along this passage way. At first glance I thought that the purpose of these were anti-homeless, but on further reflection, I suspect they are there to prevent the gathering of adolescent children. They appear to be an instance of ‘defensive urban architecture’ mentioned in this Guardian article from 2014. I could be wrong.
In essence, this series of paintings are snapshots of Britain at a moment of change symbolised in the work by a quieter battle on the streets between sodium light and bright white night lighting – old ideas and new merge garishly. The themes in the paintings complement the short films that I have finished and currently working on.
I have a new film ready and I am currently looking for places to screen it. A dark, noirish film set in a surreal world where a woman seeks escape from her life as it spirals out of control.
‘Panic Attack’ (co-written by and featuring Myriam Mégharbi) is a short film inspired by another film from 1955 called ‘Dementia’ (AKA ‘Daughter of Horror’). ‘Dementia’ can be viewed here: https://archive.org/details/daughter_of_horror
Further details (images) can be found by clicking on the film images in this post. I will have a more detailed post about this film when I finally secure a screening for it.
If you would like to preview the film for a screening event, please do get in contact.
If you are on Instagram, so am I. I have been using it over the last few months as a test bed for a variety of ideas/research with drawing sketches, video sketches, work in progress and photography. Do not expect consistency, rather this is a spew of images and thoughts, what I am working on at the time or just a playful interaction with this digital platform. GO HERE: @johnvincentart
The Instagram posts are also shared to my Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter accounts should these be preferable.
Expect more painting in the series, a new UHD video to compliment ‘Panic Attack’ and further photographic experiments.
Most images are available as prints or as originals, so should you wish to invest in some of my artworks or indeed commission new works, please do get in contact.
I was out on Route 12 yesterday morning, continuing a project which is mainly concerned with – though not exclusively – capturing the English landscape, typically Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire.A few days ago I found a website that seemed to relate to some of the ideas and thoughts behind this ongoing project – The Alchemical Landscape.
With hardly a soul around except for a grumpy dog owner – who obviously owned the entire landscape – and a cheerful, fellow cyclist there was Ophelia who, in an almost spirit like way, made the weather warm like summer and was slowly turning the sky red.
Later, with everything still tinted, I went in to London with Cathy to see a preview of a fascinating documentary at the Curzon, Soho – ‘The Ballad Of Shirley Collins’ (to which the title of this blog post makes reference). The content seemed to echo some of my thoughts behind producing the landscape images and its time travelling look at things past where only traces remain, in this case through lyrics rather than in the physical landscape.
I am taking part in an exhibition toward the end of June. It is largely an extension of the ‘Alternative Letchworth’ exhibition which finished earlier this year at the Broadway Gallery in Letchworth. There will be some new work by the other artists involved and another chance to see my film ‘The Last Of Letchworth’. The show will also feature live ambient music by ‘Dark Room’.
Designed and built based on a dream by Annie Lawrence, The Cloisters in Letchworth is an unusual and fascinating building, both visually and from its use. The building was previously used for the study of Psychology, Theology and is now a Masonic centre.
If you are interested, you can find more about its history here.
Sunday 25th June, 4pm-7pm, admission Free.
Featuring : Trails & Tours, Crafts For Kids, Local History, Contemporary art and a bar!
How to get to Letchworth:
By Train: From Kings Cross or Cambridge stations (or from Peterborough changing at Hitchin).
The Cloisters is a short walk from the town centre. From Broadway Gardens, take South View walking all the way down to a small green (crossing over Sollershot and then Baldock Road) before following Cloisters Road until you reach the building.
I have been posting (via my Instagram account) the development of some new paintings. I am creating a new series of works, returning to photography as the primary source with a couple of changes to my previous process and some new ideas behind the content of the works.
The first change is in how I make use of drawing. Over the past year and a half whilst establishing my Illustration, Design and Photo practice, I have been focussing on my drawing skills. I have subsequently chosen to deploy the enhancements gained here in to the process of creating new painted works. Previously, I have used drawing in a more mechanical fashion to transfer the photographic image to the canvas via OHP projection or a grid – using it as scaffolding.
Now, drawing is playing a greater role in the process and acts as an interception between photo and painting, by working from eye to interpret the photo allowing all kinds of interesting distortions to creep in. By referring to the photo during the painting process, I keep the feel of the photograph but the overall painting is, for the most part, destined by the initial drawing and layout and new information is painted in. The end result is a more interesting and atmospheric interpretation of the source photograph. I would liken this to the writing and re-writing of memory, seeing what you want to see, remembering what you want to remember.
This brings me to the the second change which was inspired by involvement in the Alternative Letchworth exhibition late last year. Part of the thinking behind my short film ‘The Last Of Letchworth’ was to incorporate my personal relationship to the local geography. This new set of paintings will be informed by this relationship taken from either a historical perspective or from the present with notions of travelling through time (via memory).
This series is still in under development…I will be updating my Instagram account as the new paintings come together.
I have recently split my online portfolio in to two parts as well as setting up an alternative blog and Facebook page to promote my Illustration & Graphics, Digital Painting, Commercial Photography/Retouching and Web Design. To follow the development of these, you may wish to like/follow to the Facebook page or sign up to the emailing list on the new blog via the links above. To view my new Illustration, Design and Photo website pages, follow this link:
The blog you are currently reading and associated mailing list will now concentrate on my (Fine) Art based activities – Painting, Video and Photography alongside my refurbished website fine art portfolio:
‘Alternative Letchworth Past And Present’ Closes This Sunday 19th Feb
Only a few days to go before the Alternative Letchworth exhibition closes at the Broadway Gallery in Letchworth. Open 10am-5pm Weds-Sat and 10am-4pm on Sunday. It has had a great response from visitors and has gained a good deal of press attention. If you have yet to see it, this is your last chance!