Below is a link to a video of our Renewal exhibition at the Atkins Building in Hinkley with John’s speech at the opening as the audio and all the artwork in the exhibition.
Below is the text of John’s speech.
It is an honour and a privilege to introduce this exhibition by Art Space on the theme of Renewal. The theme is a fundamental one, in relation to the making of art, as it is also to our very existence. I will offer a few comments under the headings of Evolution, The Earth, The body, The individual in society, The composer, and The artist.
The different meanings of the word ‘renewal’, perhaps all boil down to the idea of making something, over and over. We have a constant need to renew our physical selves. For example, red blood cells last about 100 days, before being replaced by the bone marrow.
There seem to be two processes at work in the Universe: one of them is the tendency for disorganisation, for energy to be dissipated, what is called entropy; but the other is a constructive process, of which biological evolution is a part.
We, humans, are perhaps the pinnacle of evolution – able to reflect on our existence; to produce art:
• For fun
• To stimulate
• To raise awareness and to warn
• And because, as artists, the force moves us
I work as a programme director for GP training. Part of my remit is to help these young doctors to use Humanities in relation to professional practice. There is a need for a healthy work-life balance, and refreshment, and art can play a role in this, as with any work or profession. I also teach them that artists closely observe the world and that they must reach inside their own essence, in order to make art that is true. The habit of close observation is equally important for doctors to cultivate. But to relate in any depth to a work of art, the observer must also reach inside their own essence. Reflecting on this process helps to develop an affinity with the artist, and indeed with humanity as a whole. There is a close parallel with the empathy which doctors must nurture in relation to their patients. I will now turn to the headings I mentioned at the beginning.
1. Evolution: complexity, change and renewal. Jo – paintings and lino prints about seed heads, exploring the cycle of life: germination, growth, bloom, fruit and demise . Alison – the evolution, over six months, of discarded photocopies into new art. Erica – explores the evolution of various unfolding stages of life, each threading back to the central core of the self
2. The Earth: the cycle of seasons; use of resources and ecological issues. Helen – regeneration of industrial / brown fill sites. Tony – photographic cycles of renewal, whilst embracing grave environmental, ecological and political concerns. Pam – use of remnants from bonfire and skip . Anna – renewal associated with the colour green, through layering and loose brush work, recalling the moment of awakening. Phillip – scrapyard scenes, with life re-emerging in every crevice
3. The body: recovery and regeneration after illness. Nita –giant rib cage with ceramic ‘seeds’ emerging; and also the rope ladder to a golden bird of change. With reference to the willow walk-through, old bones become new shoots, symbolically a forest of healing. Beryl’s Persephone from Bellini is the Goddess of Spring and Fertility, her benign presence reminds us of continuity and renewal.
4. The individual in society: re-invention of the self; re-affirmation of values, of vows, of caring for others. Tony’s work also deals with issues such as Capitalism and its focus on the short term and profit, arguing that we need a renewed approach to thinking and living. Sally – Mother Theresa ‘renewing’ the lives of those in poverty living on the edges of society. Jacqui’s otherworldly heads inviting us into their inner worlds, and the spiritual domain with her Reliquary. Mary – focuses on a specific place: Skegness pier and the nature of the people who have inhabited it past & present. Beryl – the breaking of maternal ties. Gill – the relationship between an ancient site and our constant attempts to understand it. Judith – old drawing instruments as a link to the past
5. The composer: each note, breaking the silence after the death of the previous sound, is renewal, is defiance against entropy. Dylan Thomas wrote: ‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light’. I have been writing a new symphony (A Blackbird in Quorn). Mid-March 2015, I heard his voice again, and knew that he had survived the winter.The title of this first movement is ‘Back from the dead’. 2016 – I’m still waiting for his signature tune.
Pam’s ‘Birdsong’ was an emotional response to the sound of birds singing. Each stick has an emotion written on it in pencil, ranging from sadness, to excitement, happiness and peace
And so to the final heading:
6. The artist: notices as if for the first time, as if being reborn. Each making of art, and each deep engagement with art, is renewal.
But categorisation is a poor thing. Let the art works in this fascinating exhibition speak for themselves.
John Middleton (www.composersalliance.com)