What’s the Meaning of This? – John Yeadon at 70

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Renowned Coventry-based artist John Yeadon will be opening his solo show at the CET Building on 18th May, and it will feature a selective retrospective view of paintings produced in the 1980s alongside his more recent work.

John Yeadon looks back to his 1984 Dirty Tricks exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry and compares this work with his recent paintings.

Thirty-four years ago this controversial exhibition of Yeadon’s grotesque realist, large allegorical ‘history paintings’ was received with alarm and pleasure. At the high point of AIDS paranoia and gay ‘blame’, Yeadon’s forthright, radical, critical, ‘in your face’ paintings challenged preconceptions on sexuality and society.

The Coventry Evening Telegraph declared that it was ‘Smut Not Art’, however the exhibition increased the attendance at the Herbert by 40%. Works from this exhibition were later that year exhibited at the Pentonville Gallery in London and the British Art Show of 1985. The Arts Council of Britain also bought a version of ‘The Last Chilean Supper’ one of the ‘lavatory wall smut’ paintings so derided in the Coventry Evening Telegraph and John Yeadon was featured by Emmanuel Cooper in his book the Sexual Perspective/Homosexuality and Art in the Last 100 Years in the West, published in 1986.

This exhibition not only compares Yeadon’s paintings of the 1980s with his recent work but asks the viewer to reflect on the political, ideological, social and economic changes. These past struggles and contradictions of the 80s that generated Yeadon’s work might also be relevant today.

Have things changed – is society more tolerant, more open minded, more liberal today? As Coventry approaches the City of Culture, is the city more enlightened, less provincial?

Now at the age of 70, this is the second of three ‘retrospective’ exhibitions John Yeadon is having during the next 12 months.

Three Witches, Feb – April, The National Museum of Computing, Bletchley Park.

What’s the Meaning of This, Yeadon at 70. May – June. Newsroom Gallery, CET Building, Coventry.

70 X 70, Incorporating, Unbelievable Stories and Fearful Symmetry. February 2019, Lanchester Research Gallery, Coventry University.

Artist Spotlight: Jack Foster

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Coventry artist Jack Foster has recently returned from a month-long residency in Dresden, Germany as part of the Coventry-Dresden Arts Exchange. This artist-led grassroots initiative was set up by Coventry-based artist John Yeadon back in 2012 to develop dialogue and establish collaborative partnerships between artists from both cities.

We visited Jack’s current solo show “Dresden Paintings” at Classroom Gallery, and have interviewed him to find out more about his stay in Dresden, and this wonderful collection of paintings produced during his residency.

How did you enjoy your stay in Dresden?

I went to Dresden without knowing how I’d respond to seclusion of various kinds- spatial and societal, for the most part. I spoke some German but not enough to hold a conversation worth having. A month is a long time to run an experiment like that on yourself but I learned a lot.

My hosts, Anne and Christian Manss, could not have been more welcoming. They kept me alive for a month whilst I got the painting done.

Dresden was beautiful but extremely cold at the time (February) so I lived between my guest room at and my studio, which I shared with Christian and Anne. I met some great people in Dresden and the experience was invaluable.

Before travelling to Dresden, did you set any objectives, that you wished to achieve through your residency?

I hadn’t had too much time or space to paint in the months leading up to the residency but I had a few sketchbooks filled with ideas. My main objective was to see where I was as a painter. My work tends to tread a line between figurative representation and painterly abstraction and I go back and forth between the two.

Previous to Dresden, I addressed painting in a slightly more playful way, I wasn’t painting with any serious technicality or concern for colour theory. The work that I made was largely based on background figures and drapery in old masters paintings so I wanted to re-learn how to paint, to a degree.

My palette was stripped back to four or five colours (as opposed to my bags of hundreds of tubes that I usually work with), this forced be to get the most out of those colours and figure out new ways to use them. The decision to limit myself in this way also negated most of the decision paralysis when it came to mixing up colours due to the fact that I was mostly working in tone.

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What projects did you work on during your stay?

The sketches that I compiled previous to the residency were of draped fabrics, background figures and areas of light and shade- all lifted from old masters paintings, drawn and re-drawn out of context until they became their own image.

These were my starting point and I wrestled with them for a month.

‘Economy of mark’ is a phrase that my friend Mircea Taleaga used when he came to give a guest lecture about his work at Coventry university where I teach. The phrase, as far as I can see, originated with him but I’ve adopted it as a really useful way of talking about the amount of brush marks used to suggest form.

In a lot of classical portraiture, the faces could be said to have a low economy of mark (lots of marks to create the forms) whereas the drapery, background figures and even the sitter’s hands often had quite a high economy of mark (fewer marks to create the form, often tonal sketches).

I am interested in using the spectrum of this economy in different ways. Looking at a painting in this way works like a visual map of time spent in various places, it’s a sort of document of attention.

How do you feel that your time in Dresden benefited your creative practice?

It’s rare to get so much time to think about painting.

I’m able to do things with paint that I simply couldn’t do before, the time spent with just a few colours has been almost as important as the years spent with my collection of hundreds of colours.

What themes do your paintings explore?

Previous work has been about pattern seeking and superstition, In life, literature and In painting. I’ve painted a lot of Skinner Boxes- animal boxes from BF skinner’s famous experiments. I show these boxes alongside some paintings of drapery with suggested figuration.

I like to take things out of images when they should be there and put things In when they shouldn’t be.

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Draped fabric appears in many of the paintings in your solo show. Tell us a little more about this.

The draped fabrics started to come into my work as a bit of a joke, I painted a few which looked like a kid’s terrible ghost costume or something but the paintings looked more serious. There was no foot coming from underneath the sheet and the proportions weren’t human so they were just these draped forms, moving without an author.

They were also sort of about the way people approach semi-abstraction when looking at paintings, there’s almost a frustration for the image to be fully explicable.

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What’s next for you now as an artist?

I’m making more sketches and I’ll figure out what they are later when I try to paint them. After that I’ll try to show them somewhere.

Where can people go to find out more about your work?

For now my Instagram is the best place @jack_foster_artist

 

Jack’s solo show “Dresden Paintings” is currently on display at Classroom Gallery, open Tuesdays and Thursdays 11 – 4pm, or viewing by appointment, until the end of April 2018.

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Artist Spotlight: Martin Green

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Coventry based artist Martin Green is renowned for his use of found objects, which he has collected and categorised for decades. These form the medium for his art and his recent project “How do I know if I’m addicted” comprised of a site specific installation and live curation event at the inaugural Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art last year. We interviewed Martin following the event to find out more about this project, and what influences his creative practice.

What type of artist would you describe yourself as?

On my instagram page I use the strap line Artist, Writer, Live Curation Events, Sculp-poetics, this description starts to broadly outline my interests and approach.

How has your practice developed over the years?

My current practice is about making/finding a series/sequence/collection of small sculptural components/elements. Sometimes a mass of components are assembled together in response to an exhibition environment. Hundreds of small pieces are arranged to command, transform and challenge a large architectural space. The components are arranged differently each time depending upon the idiosyncrasies of the exhibition space. The individual elements are placed in reaction to the floor they are directly placed on. The placement of the components is influenced by my response to the history and proportions of the floor.

As an art student I made abstract paintings with un-stretched canvas while at the same time collecting street and bin ephemera, but I kept them as two very separate disciplines, stretching me thin in opposite directions. The three most recently completed pieces explore the qualities of double sided paintings and collages displayed alongside found, transformed or acquired objects.

You are renown for use of collected, found objects – how do these relate to the themes you explore in your work?

I have been drawn to found objects since 1976 when I compulsively started to collect passport photographs, which were discarded in the vicinity of photo booths mainly in Central and South London. Over 13 years I amassed thousands of found photographs, a street archive, a document of a specific time. After a period of not street collecting I exhibited 19 found photo booth photographs in a 2008 group show, Beauty and the Disregarded, curated by Lorsen Camps. The exhibition prompted me to ask myself the question, ‘if I started collecting again what would I collect’. This question resulted in a archive of baseball cap peaks, cigarette lighters, wheel weights, hub cap retention wires, sea potatoes, inhalers, mascara, make up brushes, umbrella canopies, piano peel, baggies, zip pulls, suitcase wheels, brick sapping. This collection is the antecedence of my current practice.

I often have no obvious relationship or connection with the found object and I force myself to find a response, a back-story and a new myth; through this process I make work that can change direction and produce outcomes that I would not envisage or predict. I see the completed sculptures made up of two parts, one that originates from inside the studio and one that is from outside the studio, the outside world so to speak. These two parts define both my creativity and the environment where I live and work.

Who and what do you draw inspiration from?

Visiting galleries, the momentum of studio practice, using my past as a source material, making the unknown and an addiction to being distracted, is what feeds me.

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Tell us about your project for the Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art – “How do I know if I’m addicted?”:

‘How do I know if I am addicted’ is a generic theme for all of the work that I have made since March 2017, the specific title for the piece placed in the office well at the CBCA is – ‘Tell me what is the term for drawing the face of an idealised deity over a self portrait?’ ‘Tell me’, for short, comprises of 90 double-sided paintings that are made in batches of 5; the first and last sets of five are based on an absurd theory that wild birds are adopting national identities and their plumage is changing through the influence of flags and aeroplane insignia.

Which found objects were used in this piece, and what was the significance of them?

‘Tell me’ includes 270 found nitrous oxide canisters wrapped in snippets of colour photographs from daily newspapers, wire that is left over from the process of dismantling a lot of note books that contained confidential data, found yellow V bristles from road sweepers, small pieces of BT wire found around the vicinity of the green street boxes, small mounds of dirt that came from the process of cleaning the Coventry Cathedral tapestry, Sutherland Grime.

Please explain the distinct shapes of each of the paintings exhibited in the installation, and why they were double sided.

The double-sided paintings have a front/intended side and a reverse/accidental side, qualities that I see in every day objects as distinct from the qualities of art objects.

I describe the shapes as architectonic, relating to architecture; in this case the shapes have the Coventry Ring Road T columns and the New Cathedral as their starting points.

In the version of ‘Tell Me’ at CBCA each of the double sided paintings balance on three coated nitrous oxide canisters, each positioned next to a hole/scar in 1950’s industrial lino.

The terms “acquiesce” and “dissent’ were repeatedly used in your drafted plans for the installation and live curation – forming the way in which the work appeared to organised. Please explain the importance of these terms to “How do I know if I’m addicted?”

There were three pieces on show at CBCA, 1.Tell Me. 2.Acquiesce and Dissent. 3.Mirror. ‘Acquiesce and Dissent’ comprises of 16 double-sided diptyches that were placed in an office cupboard alongside colour-coded tables that are based on an administrative aesthetic that I use in my full time employment.

‘Acquiesce’ means that you do something reluctantly but without protest and ‘Dissent’ is the opposite of Acquiesce. This piece references the dilemma of being an artist and at the same time having to work full time at another occupation to pay the bills. Acquiesce is how I describe my response to this dilemma / reality.

How did you create the backing soundtrack for the live curation?

‘Tell me’ was placed in an abandoned newspaper / editorial office. Part of the vast false blue tiled floor had been removed to create a well that revealed a floor that originates from the period when the building was first opened. 1950’s industrial brown lino peppered with a matrix of scars from where the stunted pillars that held up a false floor had been ripped out to leave holes in the lino that exposed the warp and weft of the hessian backing. I noticed that if you carefully stroked the remains of the hessian it played and sounded like a toy guitar, of the 100 scars 60 played and were recorded and was used as background to the live curation event Acquiesce and Dissent.

Have you any plans to continue to develop the project further?

I have removed a long section of the lino from the CET building and I will incorporate it in the next showing of ‘Tell Me’.

What’s next for you as an artist?

In 2017 I took part in eight projects, so after an intense period of exhibiting I now need an intense period of making new work. I am planning and in dialogue about a project that coincides with the 70th anniversary of the death of Kurt Schwitters.

Where can people go to find out more about your work?

I am happy for people to visit me at the studio by appointment, email martingreen618@btinternet.com and follow me on Instagram

New residency announced for Coventry Dresden Arts Exchange!

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Coventry Dresden Arts Exchange have announced a new month-long residency (February 2018) in Dresden for Coventry based artist Jack Foster, hosted by Dresden artist Christian Manss.

Born in Coventry, Jack is a 26 year old painter and a graduate of Coventry University. He currently lectures on the Foundation Art and Design Course at Coventry University. Jack has had solo exhibitions and group shows in London and the Midlands. He was the 2013 winner of Coventry University Drawing Prize from which he was an artist in residence at Rugby School, teaching and creating a new body of work.

This pilot residency programme is been supported by Coventry City Council a Small Arts Grant. Coventry Dresden Arts Exchange hope to make these Exchange residencies a regular feature of their activities.

Dresden artist Alexandra Müller was artist in residence in Coventry in July-August 2017, hosted by John Yeadon. The residency was a great success and Alexandra was a perfect ambassador for Dresden and Dresden artists. She had an open studio and a final exhibition in City Arcadia Gallery, which were well attended with over 60 visitors, amongst these visitors was The Lord Mayor of Coventry and the Dean of Coventry Cathedral. Alexandra visited museums and historic sites in Coventry including the Cathedral, also visiting artists studios in Coventry and Compton Verney Art Gallery in Warwickshire plus art galleries in London and Birmingham accompanied by Coventry artists.

Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange is a personal initiative of Coventry based artist John Yeadon and has been active since 01/06/2012. It was formed into an Unincorporated Artist Association in 01/04/2015. The Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange is an artists-led grassroots initiative, which seeks to develop dialogue between artists from the cities of Coventry and Dresden and to establish collaborative partnerships of exchanges, exhibitions, educational projects and forums.

Since 2012 they have had 6 collaborative exhibitions with Dresden artists in both cities. With over 1,000 visitors at the Coventry Dresden Arts Exchange exhibition at Pillnitz Castle during the Elbhangfest in 2016.

We are looking forward to seeing how Jack gets on during his stay in Dresden.