For the past year myself and four other artist from BV studios in Bristol have been collaborating with artists from the city of Hannover in Germany. Inspired by the spirit of twinning the five of us enjoyed spending time and exhibiting with five German artists in Hannover last summer. Here’s a summary of the aims of the project written last year: http://davemd.co.uk/bristol-artist-exchange-program-baep-hannover/
Following a successful exhibition at the Turba Gallery in Hannover in July 2018 all ten artists come together again for a show at Centrespace Gallery, Bristol during March 2019. The work I will be showing is explored in this blog post: http://davemd.co.uk/responding-to-lyme-disease/ These works have no direct bearing on the relationship between Bristol and Hannover, more so to the concept behind the exhibition. This work is about the seen and unseen, where what you do see often hides a very different reality.
Artists: Marlene Bart, Sven-Julien Kanclerski, Catherine Knight, Robert Luzar, David Morgan-Davies, Ruth Piper, Jean D Sikiaridis, Alec Stevens, Conrad Veit, Rui Zhang.
8 – 17 March (Preview Friday eve)
6 Leonard Lane
Bristol BS1 1EA
The flyer I designed for the exhibition collages an image from Hannover with one from Bristol, both shot in woodlands in the respective cities. These seemingly ‘Wild’ places in each city have been landscaped and adapted for our leisure time. The images not only highlight the similarities between both cities and cultures rather than their differences but also emphasise that boundaries between wild and man-made, real and unreal are often blurred: Anderswo ist hier : Elsewhere is here
Over the past few years I have been caring for my daughter who has Lyme disease, who with hindsight started to become ill about ten years ago.The disease is caught by having an infected tick bite, usually carried by deer. It’s a horrible disease that attacks every system in the body, causing neurological and autonomic symptoms as well as problems with the immune system. Because everyone is different, we all have our weaknesses, therefore aside from general Chronic Fatigue each person has their own set of health issues to deal with. This means there is no set means of treating Lyme.
My own work comes from personal experiences of landscape, primarily in the UK. In response to my daughters ongoing battle with the disease I have been re-thinking how I see the places and elements that have a specific significance to her story.
Frustrated by lack of understanding and support from the medical establishment, my daughter embarked on a course of treatment at a private hospital in Hertfordshire. Whilst staying nearby I spent some time walking small sections of the The Ridgeway National Trail. This piece is made using an image taken close to Ivinghoe Beacon, collaged with the Borrelia bacteria photographed under a microscope. The virus is everywhere, yet unseen.
My daughter remembers being bitten by a tick in Ashton Court Estate whilst still at school. At that time we knew nothing about the dangers of tick bites or of Lyme disease. The piece collages the location where she was bitten, the Deer park nearby and again the Borrelia bacteria. That moment created a fissure in my daughters life and family life in general; a fissure that continues to widen.
I see you – Video (6 mins) (2017)
Using an Infrared (IR) camera the film captures the tentative and intimate nocturnal wanderings of wild deer, but also the voids where no deer were seen. I am torn between being in awe of the beauty and secrecy of these animals and feelings of anger at how unwittingly they spread such a dreadful disease.
The artworks I have made don’t aim to give any answers, as I have none, but merely to raise awareness of the hidden danger of Lyme. I will continue to add to the body of work as and when we hit milestones in the path of my daughters recovery.
Although my work is often described as having a painterly quality, I have long had the desire to be able to emphasise this aspect through more hand-crafted printing techniques rather than through digital manipulation. With this in mind I have just finished a short 5 week course at Spike Print Studio in Bristol with Master printer Martyn Grimmer. This course focussed on Cyanotype and Gum Bichromate tri-colour printing.
Using digital negatives printed onto film and a UV light box, images are built up layer by layer by repeatedly exposing the same piece of paper covered with a) Cyanotype chemicals for the blue layer and b) a combination of Gum Arabic and Dichromate for the Yellow, Magenta & Black layers. With washing and drying the paper between applications it’s quite a slow and complicated process, requiring some patience! With time permitting colours can be repeated and new ones introduced.
Here are the results:
After doing a number of residencies over the past few years and having recently bought a caravan, it seemed like the time was right to curate my own residencies i.e. to spend time in an area of my choosing at a time that suited me; to immerse myself in this location and to think about making new work. My first trip in October 2018 took me to the village of Llanvetherine, 10 miles from Abergavenny on the edge of the Brecon Beacons in South Wales.
To focus on my artwork for a week, to explore, to walk, to photograph, to film
To re-energise my creativity
To be in and re-connect with Wales. Llanvetherine is about 20 miles from Ystrad Mynach where I come from and the same distance from Newport where my family lived in the late 1960’s.
Borders – I was keen to explore the border between Wales and England and photograph any visual evidence of there being such a divide. This was as much about me as the actual landscape, having come from Wales but spending most of my life in England. I did walk some of Offa’s Dyke and the Three Castles (White, Grosmont and Skenfrith) built by the Normans soon after the invasion of 1066. I discovered the border ran along parts of the River Monnow and photographed both sides.
As ever it is the location where I stay and explore daily where I ultimately find inspiration. My time in Llanvetherine was no different. In this case it was an orchard in the grounds where I was staying. The Orchard needed some care and attention, but seemed to perfectly reflect the time of year, the Autumn light and colours of the apples and trees combining to hint at the perfect summer now faded and gone. I spent time in the space reflecting, and felt like injecting some my energy, so decided to play. Here’s the result:
Elsewhere is here : Anderswo ist hier is the first exhibition to come out of the artist exchange between artists from Hannover and Bristol; the background to which I’ve written about here. Whilst aiming to challenge the assumption that engagements with others needn’t grow evermore distant, the project aims for a playful yet critical reflection on current times. In response to the cultural and artistic exchange around place, proximity, self and other 10 artists from the two cities present new work at the Turba Gallery in Linden, Hannover.
Alec Stevens (Sculpter) – https://www.alecstevens.co.uk
Catherine Knight (Painter) – http://www.catherineknight.com
Robert Luzar (Site-specific performance) – http://www.robertluzar.com
Ruth Piper (Painter/Curator) – http://ruthpiper.com
David Morgan-Davies (lens-based) – http://davemd.co.uk
Based at the Turba Gallery in the Linden district of Hannover
Conrad Veit(Film/Video installation)
Jean Sikiaridis (Performance / installation)
Marlene Bart (Print-Graphic scientific illustration)
Sven-Julien Kanclerski (Physical structures/installation)
Rui Zhang (Painter)
I’m currently working with a group of artists from BV studios (Alec Stevens, Catherine Knight, Robert Luzar and Ruth Piper) on an exciting artist exchange project with a group of artists from Hanover in Germany. The exchange marks the legacy of the 70th anniversary of the twinning between the cities of Bristol and Hannover. It was initiated by Alix Hughes, Bristol’s International Twinnings Officer and is supported by Bristol Hannover Council
The exchange will be the first of its kind during the 70 years of twinning between the two cities. In the current political climate we feel that now, more than ever, we need to celebrate the spirit of reconciliation; the links between the two cities and build connections for the future. During the course of 2018/19 the Bristol artists will make a trip to Hanover with the artists from Hanover making a reciprocal trip to Bristol. All artists involved will make new work to be exhibited at an exhibition in each city at the end of their respect visits.
Our working title for the project and both exhibitions is ‘Elsewhere is here : Anderswo is hier’, which will present a cultural and artistic exchange around place, proximity, self and other. The German “Anderswo is hier” and English “Elsewhere is here” act as loosely translated points of departure that respond to the European cultural legacy of Twinning – a programme encouraging certain cooperations and ongoing reconciliations between partner countries. This project focuses both on new and existing works (sculpture, performance, painting, photography and drawing) made in the artist’s home cities as well as work made during the artist exchange residencies. The works will engage with concepts and mediums such as landscape through photography and painting, space and identity using sculpture and installation, and events happening through performances and drawings made using internet streaming and video.
Watch this space..
I’ve been working on series of print editions entitled short stories. The series will consist of single prints that represent larger bodies of work and in general haven’t been seen before. The first six archival pigment prints (50cm x 40cm) have been printed by the Fine Art Print Company on 300gsm fine art stock. These first six prints are available to buy for £85 + postage. Please email for further information.
The Mothership residency is based on an organic farm in Dorset. It provides the opportunity for contemporary artists working in any media seeking a secluded retreat and potential collaboration. The residency explores the themes of climate/weather, rural/social/political issues, land/agriculture, and is run by artist Anna Best Mothership web.
My ideas leading up to my Mothership residency were based around Daylight Saving Time and the ‘loss’ of an hour on October 30th. I had some pretty firm ideas of what I wanted to do. I was interested in what happened during this lost hour, and thinking about work that was time based rather than site-specific.
Once at the Mothership my ideas evolved as I decided to follow a more relaxed approach, an approach that allowed an element of play. Although still immersed in the concept of time I decided to follow my instincts rather than a pre-determined path. Consequently the work evolved to become much more site-specific.
In the end the three pieces of work I started and continued to make months afterwards are pretty dark, heavily centered on Autumn exploring the feeling of losing the light and maybe life itself.
Almost the first thing that happened when I arrived at the Mothership was finding a dead pheasant that Curly the dog had just killed. This was quite a shock and injected a dose of reality into an early conversation with my host Anna. This episode pushed my thoughts from autumn and darkness towards death! I collected some feathers and with a found object made a dream-catcher like pendulum that is the focus of the film loop.
Fall, leaves, Fall (Intervention)
The Mothership is surrounded by Woodland. These generate large amounts of timber; found stacked at various points around Copse Barn. The process of woodland management has interested me for many years, specifically since a 2011 residency ‘Rural Idyll’ in Suffolk. A particular aspect is the marking of trees for felling and the use of fluorescent spot marking spray. Numbers and lines are often found, but never letters and certainly not words. ‘Fall, leaves, fall’ aims to correct this by marking a timber stack with the first three lines of the poem Fall, leaves, fall by Emily Brontë
Fall, leaves, fall; die flowers away
Lengthen night and shorten day
Every leaf speaks bliss to me.
I transcribed the first three lines of the poem onto a stack of timber next to the Mothership allotment. The marking spray is not the easiest to use, and even though some of the letters are difficult to read I decided to just go with it and enjoy the process.
Forest Floor(Moving image)
I brought some solar powered garden lights with me to the Mothership, thinking I might make a piece of work with them. I was interested in way solar uses energy from the previous daylight hours to illuminate the darkness today. The rope swings hanging from the giant oak tree opposite the studio grabbed my attention. Their pendulum like motion akin to workings of a grandfather clock.
Although the use of solar lighting proved impractical I persevered with using a combination of torches and the rhythm’s rope swings created to illuminate the woodland floor. My work has always between as much about what you can’t see as much as you what you can see. Forest Floor plays with this idea, by revealing and then hiding the vegetation of the woodland floor, forcing your mind fill in the gaps.
Mothership residency Oct/Nov 2016
The EU Referendum and particularly the Brexit/Leave campaign is making me very angry. I am Welsh, British and European and feel proud of being all three. I passionately believe the UK needs to remain in the EU and am very scared by what will happen if we leave. I do not want to live in a little England closed off to other countries and cultures. I want to live in a forward thinking, multi-cultural country that cares about it’s people and it’s environment.
I have been thinking about what I can do to show my support for the Remain campaign. As an artist,other than talking to people, all I can do is to continue to make work that I’m passionate about. So I’ve been looking at the EU flag: it features a circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background. They stand for the ideals of unity, solidarity and harmony among the peoples of Europe. Coincidentally in reference to EU funding (European Regional Development Fund (ERDF); European Social Fund (ESF)) the UK is split into twelve regions. The work I intend to make will focus on these regions.
The first piece ‘Star Shaped Holes #5’ I’ve made focusses on the North West. It uses an image I made with my fathers Medium Format film camera in the Lake District; a quintessentially English landscape:
If you take away the stars then you lose your way..
Writing about your own work can be a difficult thing to do, and conversations over the years with artist Paul Ashley Brown have confirmed my suspicions that someone with a more objective eye can often be better equipped to do so. I was pleased therefore when Paul agreed to write an essay based these conversations and his reading of my work. Here it is in full..
IN THE ELSEWHERE
An appreciation of the Art of David Morgan-Davies
As we continue to rush headlong into the ever-changing landscape of the 21st Century,what is it that we want or need art to be for us? What do we, or should we, ask of art in a world where we are bombarded every second by images on all sides, an ever-increasing kaleidoscope of reconstructed ideas and thoughts demanding our time and energies? Personally, I always try to believe at best art and the artists that make it have a singular mission. Theirs is to show us the world anew, to transform our understanding and connection to it, and to each other, by reminding us of something familiar to our experience of it,by making it unfamiliar. In doing so,the space between these seemingly contradictory states resonate with us, throw us into a new space in which we can make connections between the experiences and worlds we may have known and lost, and, worlds we have yet to navigate, but the possibility of which may become open to us. These are the landscapes and spaces that good art and good artists take us to.
I think David Morgan-Davies’s work operates in this space; where the familiar and unfamiliar become one. In David’s abstract landscapes and pictures, we seem suddenly lost, haunted at first by something we feel we may know, yet are still uncertain of. We’re searching for something within the space we find ourselves occupying, the image David has created. A fragment of recognition, a shard of memory lost, a mood, a time and place, something there in our minds and heart. Within these moments of contemplation, within his pictures,there’s a certain stillness, allowing our thoughts to move and operate in a different time and space, detached from our normal surroundings, from the world outside the picture. Good art does this. It allows us to reconnect with a stillness within ourselves we need, in order to see and think clearly. This is the feeling I have when I look at David’s art.
I don’t think of David’s pictures as “landscape photography” particularly, even though at first sight, it seems that’s what they are. After all, certain elements often appear within them that may lead you to assume as such. There’s a sky, horizon line, trees, clouds, shafts of light, mountains in the background maybe. These seem surely straightforward vistas of place and time, captured in a moment. What we’d hope to find in a landscape photograph. But on closer inspection (or perhaps, specifically, on closer introspection), something else is suddenly going on, which quietly reveals itself to us (albeit, not entirely). We are still looking, still searching into the space, for an elusive key, a core secret or knowledge. It is not unlike the effect of Mark Rothko’s blurry, muffled fields of colour, a physical object we respond to in an almost ethereal state, caught in a different realm of the sense and our understanding of the world, an interior mystery inherent in us we know yet rarely dwell on, because we rarely inhabit such spaces, or allow ourselves to do so.
In this way I’d argue David’s work has a certain affinity with the Abstract Expressionist painter. An early series of seascapes (Heavy Weather) are akin to Rothko’s Seagram paintings, in their monochromatic fields of sky and sea, barely divided by light or colour, the horizon line a barely recognisable zone between the two. We know exactly what we are looking at, but in it’s execution we are thinking of something else, and our response is altered, as is it’s meaning. Like Rothko, it’s ghostly and haunting, a shadow world or phantasm, where the landscape we occupy is one of memory, interior thought, separate and adrift in time and space. These early images are spectral, taking us into an “elsewhere”, both familiar and uncertain, where the natural landscape we assume we are experiencing has become something other, loaded with memory, nostalgia, even a certain unease because there is little within the picture overtly concrete to grasp.
Similarly, another series of images (In Ore) take this further. This time there seem more obvious elements to grasp within the images, with a specific juxtaposition occurring. Here, the monochromatic landscapes are shifted by sudden elements of colour appearing. A bright red hut sits surrounded by a slate grey landscape of stone. A man-made mound of black earth is pockmarked by flashes of green moss, while in the background a timeless russet landscape of trees and river look on, the merest blur of a pinkish cloud fades out of the frame. Triangular piles of brown earth mirror the snow capped mountains in the distance. A pylon sits central and behind an arrangement of large boulders. Within this group of pictures (A Built Environment) there is a sense of a recreation of landscape from something known and lost, into something new and re-imagined. It’s as if an alien has been terraforming a new planet into an environment to be controlled,mastered, in the image of what’s already there. We are witness to a man-made transformation of the natural world as something new and adapted to our purpose, devoid of danger and uncertainty, yet still familiar. David does this by taking the image and then shifting the focus of elements by creating geometrical patterns and layers to emphasise specific areas of the picture. This has a dislocating effect, initially throwing us off balance visually, requiring a readjustment where we are no longer perceiving the image solely as a “landscape photo”. It is being reassessed and reconstructed, as is our response to the elements within it. They seem now to be existing in different shifts of time, very subtly, and as viewers we are jarred and caught unawares, are displaced within this landscape. In a way, they remind me of Hockney’s photo collages, sharing perhaps a concern and response to how the eyes take in and record information, and in doing so shift through time, space and memory, and how we occupy landscape and perceive it.
This reconstruction and redefining of the photograph to the picture becomes more evident in David’s recent work. A small series of image collages (Life before colour) represent a personal response to a shared family history, and the relationship of a grandfather, father and son. In the main picture, glowing blooms of colour are framed between the rusted and weathered doors of a greenhouse, their panes appearing like a series of monotoned abstract painted panels left out in the rain, distressed by time and memory. The flowering beauty of the past is a bright and blooming optimism, pushing through the grey and uncertain future. It is a collage of two photographs, one from the present, one from the past, where the nostalgic and pessimistic collide and connect, images of the same place, caught in different times, a shared and unified history of the then and now, which asks us questions of our own relationship to the past and present, as well as the emotional and historical connections between people and place.
This connection to place, both as landscape and picture, is taken further into uncharted artistic territory by David, with a new group of pictures of New York. In these images David takes as a starting point the use of a pinhole camera for a group of photos of buildings and skylines of the city.The randomness and chance inherent in the process of using the pinhole allow for a lack of control over the focus and elements of the image, a chasm between what the photographer is seeing, and what the camera actually captures.This action in itself dictates a certain initial abstraction through lack of specific choice. Returning to the studio, the image is then reconsidered and re-viewed, and David then through the use of a layering of graphic elements, imposes a control over the initial “random” landscape, reemphasising areas of colour or tone very subtly, thus refocusing the eye into specific locations and areas of the image. In doing so, he forces us to look closer, look and look again, ask of ourselves what it is we are looking at, and why. To move us further into a place of abstraction, to a new space reconnecting us to the landscapes we inhabit.
Here then, is where David Morgan-Davies is, asking both himself as artist, and us as viewer: ” Where are we ? And where next ?” Like all good art, it resonates within you. Allows you into a world where you can be contemplative and still, and to think about the world you know and yet don’t. To occupy that rare place, a zone of reflection where one can think and feel and wonder at the beauty and mystery inherent in the nature of art, and the world, and our place within both.
Paul Ashley Brown, November 2015