Friends Are Showing: Artworks at the RWA 168 Open (part 4)

We invited some of the Friends featuring in the RWA’s 168 Open exhibition to talk about their selected work, as well as about other recent works they’ve completed and the effect of the pandemic on their art.

The 168 Open has been an online exhibition to date, but the gallery will open to the public from 17 April to 9 May. The artworks can all be seen – and purchased – on the RWA website.

Interviews compiled by Laurel Smart and Sue Quirk. See Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

Carole Bury

Rambling Collections (Paper, marker pens, thread, gold leaf. £1200 Buy here)

I work fluidly across and between textiles and drawing, reflecting my love and passion with the created world around me. I have two paper textiles in the RWA 168th Exhibition: ‘Rambling Collections’ and ‘Field Notes’. 

“The monochrome drawings emerge as a dialogue with the landscape, a dialogue in which I deepen my relationship with the land and find its essence, referring regularly to repeated imagery. Through this deep relationship the mark making is pared down to an essential structure and language that sings. From this essence, I design and craft paper textiles, using embroidery and constructional techniques, which have a beauty, depth and quietness of their own. The physical act of making is slow and thoughtful and in contrast to the energy of the groundwork that is in their origin.

“The paper feathers in ‘Rambling Collections’ are cut out individually, and contain their own history. Each is drawn on, folded and finally gilded with gold leaf. Each feather is hand-stitched and knotted slowly, using vintage silk threads. ‘Field Notes’ is in response to the series of landscape drawings made over the last year.

Carole on her recent work…

A daily circular lockdown walk of 3 miles calms and restores. What may have begun as an angry stomp, by half way, has softened and slowed, raising the eyes and relaxing the shoulders. It’s a walk of rich variety; being of open fields, ancient woodlands, birch copses, valleys and steep hills. Climbing over the stile of an ancient slab of limestone, I’m on the home stretch; my pockets are full of treasures to methodically line up on the studio shelves. My daily haul!

“I have valued the RWA promoting the Exhibition so valiantly and regularly, and for seeking ways to offer the show to a wide audience through the determined presence on social media. Keeping the Exhibition hanging and the resolve to lengthen the show’s dates will be its success.

Instagram: @caroleburytextileartist

Carole Bury – From a series of Miniature Paper Textiles Jan/Feb 2021

Chrys Allen

Walk in Progress: Tone (Mixed media scroll. 30cm x 10m. £11000 Buy here)

‘Wandering: Tone’ I & II, as with ‘Walk in Progress: Tone’ are inspired by the musings and meanderings of my many walks alongside (and often in) the River Tone. The irregularity of tree cover in early summer created a play of light and shadow across a myriad of differing surfaces that was ever changing and seemingly impossible to capture. I imagined artworks that would accommodate the sense of movement and the sense of time passing at differing paces; from the rush of the water through to the quiet slow ageing of the bank side.

“These recent scrolls and elongated drawings incorporate brief, incomplete glimpses of landscapes: ambiguous views placed alongside detailed observations of what was near; employing mark-making and materials which recollect the sensory pleasure of being immersed in the landscape and the reverie that walking gives way to.”

Chrys on her recent work…

The walking continues. I have begun working on a [lockdown] map where the twists and turns of the paths, goyles (ravines), and lanes are taken over by the roots and branches of the hedgerows.

“The map covers an approximately 3 mile radius of home and gives no directions in a conventional sense, but rather an invitation to become immersed in the pleasure of wandering.

Facebook: chrysallenartist
Instagram: @chrysallen

Chrys Allen – Lost and Found: 2020 Map (Mixed media drawing. 20@20x20cm/108x 86cm)

Mary Collett

Little Red Dog (Lino print. 40cm high x 35cm wide Buy here)

As for a lot of people, 2020 was a difficult year, so it was astonishing and an absolute delight to have my ‘Little Red Dog’ print accepted both by the RA Summer Exhibition and the RWA Autumn Open. 

“‘Little Red Dog’ is the first in a series of dog portraits of the Galgos dogs from Spain. Originally, the print was monochrome but I thought it would be good to create a bold coloured background so I cut away the background from the first lino plate and created a second plate to print the red background. One of the huge challenges with printing is the actual printing process – it’s rife with difficulties – too much/too little/patchy ink rolled onto the plate; uneven pressure/not enough pressure through the press; creased paper; paper too damp or too dry etc.

“My Instagram account has a short video of the printing process.

Mary on her recent work…

‘Corvid-19’ was an idea rattling around in my head all year. We had a lockdown ‘Inktober’ family challenge which inspired me to draw more with ink without any preliminary pencil. So I decided to draw the Corvid-19 idea with pen, chopstick and ink straight into a sketchpad. Then the idea of making a print from it kept nagging at me. As an artist who has made quite a few artworks about corvids I just really liked the similarity between ‘covid’ and ‘corvid’ so the idea of drawing 18 nice little corvids and a 19th aggressive monster worked. I really enjoyed giving each one of the first 18 corvids a happy character of its own and then making the 19th as monstrous as possible.  

Future hopes: to continue to print and experiment with combining different techniques and materials and also to try to bring more current political relevance into my art.”

Facebook: Mary Collett’s Lino Prints
Instagram: @linoprints

Mary Collett – Corvid 19 (Lino print. Unframed £125)

Stewart Geddes PPRWA

Danabyr (Acrylic on canvas. 60x80cm. £1250 Buy here)

‘Danabyr’ was begun in a small, improvised bedroom studio that I’d retreated to at the outbreak of the pandemic.  At first, I found working on small paintings restrictive and inhibiting, but ironically the moment I returned to my larger space at BV Studios, I became more tuned into the dimensions. 

‘Danabyr’ has the colour proposition of analogous red/orange turning into umber, applied in semi-transparent bars of colour that weave in and out of each other.  Some of it was executed wet-into-wet, which led to gradated transitions from one colour to the next, whilst other areas were applied once a previous layer had dried, leading to more abrupt changes.  I’m interested in trace patches of colour being present also – you see this beautifully incorporated into Christopher Wood’s late works – which operate as ‘tart moments’ in the overall colour schema, hence the purple and light grey.

Stewart on his recent work…

Having spent a period working quite small, more recently I’ve been making the largest paintings I’ve made since art school (see ‘Untitled’).  

“Now that I have more time – and I’m delighted to be part of the marvellous RWA Friends’ organisation – I’ve returned to constructing my own canvasses, where the quality of fabric and strength of stretcher bars is better than the readymade ones.  I’m also working directly into the raw cotton duck, and the absorbency feels akin to working on enormous sheets of water-colour paper.  

“‘Untitled’ has borrowed a palette from Julian Trevelyan’s contribution to the post-War School Prints Series.  This remarkably enlightened initiative of Brenda and Derek Rawnsley enabled disadvantaged school children to have access to contemporary art during the 1940s.  I am delighted to learn that the scheme was recently reborn as part of the Hepworth Wakefield Gallery’s education programme.

Instagram: @stewart.geddes

Stewart Geddes PPRWA – ’Untitled’ (Acrylic on canvas. 5’x6’)

The Friends of the RWA is an independent charity that supports the Royal West of England Academy, Bristol’s first art gallery. 
For just £35 a year Friends can make unlimited visits to RWA exhibitions and enjoy a host of other benefits, as well as making an important contribution to the arts in Bristol and the South West. Find out more and join up here.

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