Bowes Museum- Barnard Castle 2004/5
The exhibition and intervention Distance No Object pays homage to the process of collecting objects from far afield, of bringing them together in order for the flow of humanity’s generations to make sense of and to place value in them. In the early discussions with the artists who have contributed to Distance No Object – The Bowes Museum was seen in many respects as a 19th century symbol of Noah’s Ark, home to a myriad of objects spanning many centuries, presided over by John and Josephine Bowes as Mr and Mrs Noah. The artists have explored the idea of Museum as a massive container of cultural artefacts that were at one point individual objects, but are now part of a public collection.
Adrian Jenkins Director.
Artists : Lubaina Himid, Susan Walsh, Mark Parkinson, Patricia Walsh.
Given that the context for this exhibition/intervention is the gathering, transporting, display, care taking, restoration and sustainability of public collections ; to understand what happens in back rooms and boardrooms or who works hand in glove with whom to make it possible, could bring to light more questions than it is comfortable to answer. The more you know about how a thing works, the more you marvel that it works at all.
Lubaina Himid Guest curator.
The title for this project was 40 days and 40 nights and I imagined my paintings being part of a huge display of toy Noah’s arks borrowed from collections all over the world in a show which may have included arks owned by tzars, presidents, popes, movie stars and mad academics. I envisaged a massive painted wooden ark leaning casually against the Bowes Museum which was to have been made by a Newcastle theatre company’s scenery department, designed by me for children to play on. Plus as a surprise for the opening evening, there was to be a slide show of weird and amazing boat buildings projected massively on the front of the museum, a sort of son et lumiere, my favourite kind of outdoor entertainment. It is clear however that I have reluctantly and yet eventually adapted some wild dreams. That I then decided to turn these ideas for spectacle into a deeper and longer lasting visual conversation between four artists with far-reaching and yet oddly parallel vision, has been even more exciting.
Museums promise much and can deliver in the most eccentric and extraordinary manner. Artists are usually ready for this. In this particular set of painted juxtapositions of buildings and boats there is a clash between the zones of safety and danger, of stillness and movement and of the living and the dead, they join together in order to mix memory with strategy. The paintings and drawings of arks map the mixing and mis-matching which takes place during the process of creative research. This then enables a display of the maximum number of possibilities, which is often deeply embedded in the debates around how the visual experiencing of objects can develop and opens out the probability of a vista of yet more visualising. In other words the more you look, the more you see and the more able you are to see other ways of seeing, other ways of working and other ways of making things to see.
Susan Walsh – 87 Drawers
In the making of this new work for Distance No Object the creating of containers en masse within another huge container is one of the key intentions, the idea of storage as an abstract concept which weaves through the threads of history and memory over time defines another.
Drawers are usually for storing objects, for hiding them, keeping them safe, preserving and discarding them. 87 Drawers has a dual persona, one familiar, approachable, domestic, alongside another, an untouchable display in a museum context.The original pieces of furniture which housed the drawers were not seen as valuable either in monetary or historical terms; they were adequately but not beautifully made, with little specific craftsmanship, old but not antique, seen today as unfashionable and often recycled.
As 87 Drawers spreads and stretches in self competing disorder across the large museum wall we are witness to the spectacle of a unit revealing its deconstructed self , open to view, but only for show.
Patricia Walsh – Pink Summits
Interior: A woman and a man are seated back to back in a long, otherwise empty, narrow room. Each faces a window.
The room is well lit by natural light streaming in through the two windows.
Exterior: Unseen daily hubbub, slightly audible, drifting upon the air.
S. I’d say – yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black.
H. Look, have I ever steered you wrong before? (waits) Have I ?
S. No. (pause) Well…yes actually. The auction in Paris.
H. Alright, apart from that incident. No I haven’t. So whats the problem?
Photograph from the Heroes series 2004 – Patricia Walsh
Investigating approaches to painting, the use of medium, the way we paint, challenging easel painting by holding the structure freely in one hand and applying paint through the other – this allows a more fluid approach to painting, an almost organic process in which artist, support, media and brush work in unison without normally rigid intervention of easel or wall.
This approach allows both left and right hand to be involved in the process, aiding lightness of touch that is needed to produce fine surfaces free of brush marks. This allows the viewer to engage with the illusion of space on the surface of painting without having to engage with its construction.