Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Garry Barker: Exhibition Coming Up

If you want to have a look at what I've been up to lately I have an exhibition preview coming up on Friday the 16th of October. You can find a map of how to get there hereThe work will be mainly printed and woven textiles with ceramics, however there will be a few drawings to see. As you may have gathered from some of my recent conversations in the studio, I'm very interested in how materials and processes used carry embedded meanings within them, in this case the tapestries I'm showing were woven with chenille yarns on jacquard looms by the Manual Woodworkers and Weavers Company, in the USA. Chenille is the French word for caterpillar whose fur the yarn is supposed to resemble. Of course the caterpillar is often used in allegorical tales of transformation. Chenille is manufactured by placing short lengths of yarn, called the "pile", between two "core yarns" and then twisting the yarn together. The edges of these piles then stand at right angles to the yarn’s core, giving chenille the ability to appear changed when looked at from different angles. This particular quality again has allegorical potential. Jacquard looms were controlled by chains of punched cards fitted together into continuous sequences; multiple rows of holes were punched on each card, with one complete card corresponding to one row of the design. The Jacquard loom was vital to the development of computing, the ability to change the pattern of the loom's weave by simply changing cards was an important conceptual precursor in the development of computer programming. Contemporary Jacquard looms are now computer controlled. A skill-set once vital to the textile industry now like the labour force that had those skills, now redundant. My pixelated images, moving between the hand drawn and the digital, finally re-realised in an archaic form, the tapestry, constructed geographically far away, but with a Global immediacy because of the Web. The web itself a textile metaphor, now interwoven with a history of labour.West Yorkshire once a world renowned centre for textiles manufacture has seen the entire industry migrate to the far East and the USA. This process continues, Global capitalism destabilising whole communities as it crushes those who labour and rewards those who invest. The products in this forthcoming exhibition are in their production enmeshed within a network of Global Capital.  As Albert J. Dunlap stated, 'The company belongs to the people who invest in it - not to its employees, suppliers, nor the locality in which it is situated.' This is a quote taken from Zygmunt Bauman's 'Globalization: The Human Consequences' a book that highlights the links between the processes of Capitalism, the unequal distribution of wealth and the current refugee and migrant crisis. I believe we are collectively 'In Breach of Trust', the coming exhibition being an attempt to open out a poetic dialogue around a subject that at times feels impossible to deal with in terms of an art practice, but which at the same time feels too important not to. 

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Collaborative Drawing: A Proposal

Michael Dumontier & Neil Farber: A Royal Art Lodge members collaboration

In 2004 the magazine ‘D is for Drawing’ published a pilot issue. The then editor Yane Calovski set out the areas of drawing the magazine would cover and one of them was at the time termed, ‘democratic expression’ stating that ‘in the primacy of the practice lies the context for drawing as a successful collaborative practice.’ About half way through the magazine was an essay by the curator Alex Baker called ‘Odd Fellows’, on a collaborative exhibition that had been held at the Morris Gallery in Pennsylvania in 2003. This essay introduced me to two things. The first was the work of Marcel Dzama, a Canadian artist who works in the field of visual narrative and the second was an introduction to an alternative approach to collaborative working.

Marcel Dzama

Baker set out the premise for the ‘Odd Fellows’ exhibition as follows, ‘bring together artists who share a similar aesthetic, an affinity for drawing and a track record of collaboration and let them do what they do best and see what happens.’
The two other artists selected for the exhibition besides Dzama were Michael Dumontier, and Andrew Jeffery Wright. Dzama and Dumontier had already worked together as members of the Royal Art Lodge, based in Winnipeg and Wright was a member of Philadelphia’s ‘Space 1026’ another collective.
Andrew Jeffery Wright

I was intrigued to see how these collectives worked and how they could benefit the artists involved, so I decided to look at the work of the Royal Art Lodge in more detail. It was founded in 1996.The majority of the work produced was drawing, which often incorporated text. The group would meet once a week on an evening, at least three of the members would then contribute to drawings made in a spontaneous response to a previous artist’s work, and then when it was decided that an image was finished it would be date stamped. It seemed as if by working as a collective they were becoming far more successful than working as individuals. The work had a freshness and originality that could only be maintained by a group of people stimulating each other’s imagination and testing its limits. It was interesting to hear what they had to say about working in collaboration and one of the things that intrigued me was that they formed the group as a response to living in Winnipeg. The city had no track record of being an ‘art’ centre and by forming a group they felt both protected from the philistines they believed themselves to be surrounded by and found it easier to make work in an environment of mutual support. The fact that the work developed a unique style because of this collaborative way of working seemed secondary, just a result of the process. What they also found though, was because there were several people with different communication skills, those more quiet practitioners, would find themselves promoted by those who were very good at organizing shows and getting work out there. The group had solved one of those perpetual conundrums, the artists who just quietly get on with work are usually awful at self promotion, and artists that have a very good set of communication skills, are often out there communicating rather than getting on with work in the studio. 
Leeds now has several groups that work collaboratively and I think these are of real benefit to the city. Try and get to see what is going on above Wharf Chambers on Wharf Street, both the artists’ collaboratives ‘Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun’ and ‘Leeds Weirdo Club’ are based there.

Collaboration can also be something done at a distance and can be a good way of making contacts with other artists and seeing yourself as a ‘global’ practitioner.

The artist Gabriela Boiangiu has recently initiated a project called ‘Drawing Dialogue’. The idea for this began when she was working in Dalga near Craiova in Romania. While she was there a left behind drawing was ‘finished’ by an artist who found it, decided it was interesting and responded to it by making a drawing in dialogue with what was already there. This intrigued her in particular because the new drawing seemed to say something about two very different things at the same time. Gabriela is though also interested in location, and the fact that an entirely visual dialogue could be conducted at a distance. The other issue about location is that the one you are in is always specific. A bedroom in Leeds is totally different to a studio in Paris. 

This is the proposal:

Stage one
Send Gabriela your postal address via email to as a registration of your interest.

Stage two
Gabriela will pair up registered artists by location, looking to find interesting geographical links.

Stage three
You are contacted by email with the postal address of an artist you have been paired with.

Stage four
You make 6 A2 size unfinished drawings that respond in some way to your specific location and post them to your artist and then wait for 6 drawings to come to you. (Drawing can include collage or colour, be inventive)  

Stage five
After they arrive, you respond to your 6 artist’s drawings and ‘finish’ them.

Stage six
You send the 6 finished drawings to Gabriela who will send an address to post them to nearer the time.

Once you have registered your interest, you will have two months to complete the 6 drawings and send them in the post to your paired artist. Gabriela will pair people up as the project advances.
Final deadline for registering an interest in participation: 30 March 2016

There is no funding for this project, so this might cost around £20 all together with paper, materials and tubes sent in the post world wide. 

Remember if you do register an interest you will need a fixed postal address and will have to be committed to the project. As a student, if you were unsure of where you might be living over the summer, you could always use your home address or have something delivered to you at college.
Gabriela’s project was initially intended for existing professional artists, and she has extended the invitation to include students, this of course is a risk to the project, as it is vital that all participants take full responsibility to ensure that no work is lost or drawings become marooned without a responder. If you do decide to participate in this, please make sure I don’t get egg on my face for suggesting the project would be of interest to students. Participation would of course be useful for your PPP modules.

It is also proposed that if the project is successful there will be an exhibition of the work done. As to where, that could be in Romania or elsewhere in Europe. 

See also:

Thursday, 17 September 2015

144 Drawing Quotes

You might find this video of Barry Schwabsky talking about writing about drawing interesting: click

He puts 144 quotes together in different orders and just lets the text flow without commenting. A slow start, so you could skip the opening minute or so, but once he gets going on the quotes, it’s fine.

Trying to sum up what something is about is a very difficult task, but after listening to all these quotes you begin to realise that they can be collected together in different ways. Some are about how drawing comes into being, others about the hand eye relationship; some about the poetry of drawing and others about structure. You might find it useful to try and collect these quotes together in different categories. Try and find quotes that make sense to you and then perhaps see if there is a way to use these quotes to support writing about your own work.

I use Twitter @GarryBarker3 to keep my own thoughts bubbling away about what it is to make art. I aspire to write one 'Aphorism for young artists'  tweet a day, but rarely manage to do it. The title has been shortened to AFYA as it was taking up too many characters, and I find it a useful mental exercise to try and write within the 140 character limit Twitter sets.  If you follow me you get fairly regular posts, about three or four a week depending on how busy I am, each aphorism is designed to reflect some aspect of the art business that I have encountered over the years. Some are very obvious and others more about the poetry of words just coming together. 

COP3 module takers will in particular need to practice their writing skills. However it's important to remember that COP3 isn't just about the written element, it's about establishing a well understood PRACTICE. So any writing must be supportive and flow naturally from the work you are doing, this is why I think it's important to try out a range of writing styles and types of writing before you dive straight into the 'academic tone' that characterises too much writing about art.  Barry Schwabsky's 144 quotes might be a useful way into you making your own statements about drawing. 

Monday, 14 September 2015

Support for collaborative drawing practices

Those of you interested in developing a collaborative drawing practice might want to look at the Exchange and Draw website.
In particular the website explores a dialogical process of making drawings that were swapped and collated in a 'take-it-in-turns' fashion.
Click here 

Working collaboratively can be a wonderful way of extending your practice and it can take the pressure off you always having to come up with your own ideas.
It can also be done at a distance and there are examples of artists collaborating by post as well as via the internet.

You can download some interesting writings on collaborative drawing research from the Tracy website here
Swarm Intelligence

Swarm Intelligence have done some interesting large scale collaborative drawing work: see

Even if you dont like the idea of collaborating with others, you can use the methods employed by collaborators to open out your own creative practice. For instance you can begin to work with two totally different drawing styles and explore how the two can come together. Do they gradually merge, or can you make images that hold together more than one visual language? We all have very different aspects of our own personalities, and collaboration with two or more of these can be quite fruitful. Our world is full of competing and very different visual languages, you may want to make work that reflects this.

Paul McCarthy

The drawing above by Paul McCarthy is an interesting coming together of a range of visual languages, from the cool precision of technical drawing, to references to cartoon imagery and expressive mark making. He isnt collaborating with anyone else, however it feels as if he is trying to reconcile several different aspects of his research with what he feels is the current state of the world.