Screenprint workshop with degree students
Statement towards the 56 Group Exhibition Opening:
The process of creating an artwork often draws on both abstraction of experience and a quality of technical knowledge, with the artist frequently referring to subtle association and material nuance in the creation of their work. For this, artists are largely indebted to those who come before them, those who create the machines and tools used, those who synthesise and refine the pigments, those who write the books, those who inspire new ideas and those who teach. Unlike other technical disciplines, however, each artist approaches the entirety of this knowledge through their own unique language, built on interpretation, experimentation and metaphor. One would think the idiosyncratic nature of art would resist collaboration, but the opposite is true; creativity thrives on diversity, communication and curiosity. Often ideas flourish through discordance and unpredictability, it’s precisely this constant interpretation of experience and knowledge that drives art collectives like the 56 Group to continuously grow and contribute to a shared knowledge and wider appreciation of art.
During my time as a student I have been fortunate to work with, and be taught by some of the current members, their contributions to my own practice have been invaluable. I know that as well as being continuously exhibiting artists, many of the members are frequently involved in community projects and have worked as educators to various degrees. It is this spirit of contributed experience that resonates through the group, their awareness of the past as a measure of the present.
When I was told the 56 group were looking for applicants for their graduate fellowship, I was compelled to apply. Not simply because I was familiar with their recent exhibitions, but because my own practice largely follows the study of artistic communication, and from this, how ideas are expressed through material and metaphor. My recent work examines the process of creation and the subtle effects history has on our present understanding of artistic motifs. In the past I have created fictional artists, chronicled various cultural periods and hypothesised what an art of the future might resemble. I explore art as a symbolic abstract, as myth and material, as language and relativity. Often approaching new work as being context dependant, setting up projects around specific enquiries - recently this has been the spectacle of exhibition and the remnants of the artist. For this reason, I look forward to becoming familiar with the work and history of the group, and from what I have seen at this exhibition alone, there is a lot to become acquainted with. It’s a history going back as far as the post-war Avant Garde and will undoubtably be around for decades to come - the prospect of creating work in the midst of, and in response to, the changing art of the times is an opportunity that should be available to more emerging artists. So I thank the 56 Group for recognising that although an illustrious history is valued, these exhibitions more importantly establish an open dialogue between the past and the future. Because working as artists we are constantly, and inevitably, finding ourselves between interpretations of both. Thank you.
Before Christmas we visited Isa Bilstein's pottery studio in Cardiff MET. Isa took us through her working process using the most amazing wooden kick wheel. She explained some of the finer points of creating functional pottery and brewed lots of coffee to keep us going.