The Blackwater Polytechnic faculty took three field trips this summer. The first was to the far North of Scotland – Achiltibuie to be precise. The second was a solo trip by Freddie Robins to Shetland to catch up with the World’s knitters. The third was to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala in Southern India.
We love it here in the beautiful Blackwater Valley but it’s essential to get away and refresh our eyes with new textures of land and city scape. It is very good to be reminded of how irrelevant we are in a place like India which is so vast and self-sufficient. I love Indian Vernacular Modernism in architecture. It is generally a joyful cluster of styles, textures and colours. Amongst many highlights of our trip the wonderful Kerala Folklore and Theatre Museum in Ernakulam stands out.
The Royal Armouries, Leeds
St. Francis – The Bowes Museum, Castle Barnard, County Durham
Below: a vibrant church and a disused cinema, Sultan Bathery – Wayanad – Kerala
This poster is hand printed in a split fount blend of four colours on an 1888 Wharfedale cylinder press, directly from hand-typeset antique wooden typefaces. This poster is strictly limited to 50 signed and numbered copies.
This print measures 480 x 640mm and is printed onto 225gsm Zerkall mould-made paper stock, with deckles to all edges. Posters will be mailed in a poster tube.
Our barn where we live is an intriguing space because like certain theaters, the Brixton Academy springs to mind, it has the scenery built in. At it’s centre is a large open space, which might be considered the village square, a set for Smetana’s Bartered Bride; that opera being an upbeat comedy with jolly peasants and ‘Happy Days’. In the depths of winter the central space is more like the set for Janacek’s Jenufa; a dark tale of brute individual and mob passion and child murder. The central space is a place of performance where we enact daily life but given its grand and extraordinary envelope we are given a tinge of the epic.
At one end where the silos sit we have the set of the ‘castle’ where the Princess (how we view her) lives (or at least sleeps) with her parents the King and Queen (how she views us we hope). At the other end we have the back stage area which is our studios where the magic is spun in secret.
Part of what makes our barn such a wonderful place to live is it’s imaginative cast. You feel grand just walking into it, as though something important will happen and often it does. Our barn is not a neutral space. It could never be neutral nor would we want it to be. We have fought our whole lives against cliché and received wisdom – against ‘nice-i-fication’ as Freddie calls it. Cliché is a prison of lazy thought. It doesn’t help make things better, easier or safer. When we decided to hold an exhibition in the barn to have built white walls to pretend that the barn did not exist would have been to invoke cliché and diminish the barn and the work we wished to show.
Then I became ill, leaving David Howe to build most of the walls. I would start him off with a process, a set of rules, using bits of left over building material and he would follow that through. I would shuffle out in my slippers to check on progress and then go back to bed. The configuration of the walls and their number was a product of ‘see what we have’ then tweak it to work. We arrived at something not dissimilar to a street-scape, the interesting bit above the dreary transitory retail signage, with surfaces colliding and hopefully working together in a studied improvisation.
Then we put the art on the walls. For us the rich texture of the walls is normal. That is what we live with. We are used to disentangling one surface from another. Not for us the lazy uninterrupted glide of the eye across the walls of most galleries, with the artwork a gentle trip, the label the most eye-catching thing in the place. With us your eyes have to work, to disentangle. They have to learn to love surface and material again; to work things out, to see relationships. The point is we may not be right, we may do a disservice to the artwork. We may have closed the gap between wall and work too much. But you will have enjoyed making up your own mind about that. You will have enjoyed the puzzle we have set you and that will give enduring pleasure. Isn’t it good to see stuff again?
The second weekend of ‘Happy Days’ commences today. The exhibition housed within a sixteenth century timber-framed barn smashes up the notion of the ‘white cube’ gallery. There is no pretence at neutral. The hierarchy between structure and artworks is not normal.
We have created spaces where unexpected conversations and trysts can occur, between artworks, between the structures they hang on and the building in which they are housed. These spaces are un-normal. It looks really cool and you will have never seen anything like it before. People are really enjoying it. We’d love to see you here. We are near Colchester in Essex. To get our address use the contact page.