Summer/Autumn 2018

WP_20180727_001I have just got back from two weeks with the family in Limoux and Cambieure (France), and at last I can find some time to tell you about what I’ve been doing over the past six months, and also what the future has to offer. France is always a time to take stock and I enjoy drawing for myself. I start off will charcoal drawings and then re-draw in ink to create more direct images. I’ve become a rather disinterested photographer and these drawings help me remember the evocative moments I experience, and are often triggers for new ideas and future themes.

Small World Futures, Grove Residency and Poem Brut
Last year I spent a week in France with Bill Mudge and Kevin Acott. This time inspired me to work on some new ideas with Kevin and also to try and carve out more time to escape London. In June we performed together at the Crouch End Festival in the Intimate Space at St Mary’s Church Tower. We also worked on a fabulous exhibition together called Small World Futures. It was the highlight of my Spring, featuring 16 artists who had created new miniature future worlds. We exhibited on the streets around London Bridge and asked writers to create words to describe these worlds. It was such a success we published a small book (£3.70 + P&P) which you can buy HERE.

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Small World Future – Alban Low (and Kevin Acott)

Kevin and I wanted more time to work through some of the Small World Future ideas and we applied for an artist’s residency at Grove in Bury St Edmunds. We were lucky to be awarded this opportunity and are taking up residency from 17-22 September to produce some new work together. We will publish a book during this week as well as explore some ideas about film and film noir. #EastAngliaNoir
There will be a short exhibition of the work on the 22nd September at Grove.
We’ll also be showcasing some of the work for a London audience at Rich Mix on 10th November 2018 (7pm, Free Entry) as part of the progressive Poem Brut night.

small_world_future_aabenraa_1The Small World Futures exhibition has travelled to Aabenraa in Denmark where it has caused quite a stir at Eskild Beck’s gallery space. It will have a new life at the Gallery Nexus in Denmark during the Autumn of 2018.

The next CollectConnect exhibition will probably be a Money/Banknote/Coin/Currency themed show. We will put out a call in the Autumn.

Art of Caring
Once again the Art of Caring exhibition had a huge impact on my life. As you probably know we have been running it with CollectConnect for four years now, and have exhibited over 1000 artworks in hospitals and public spaces. It is really hard work but I think it is needed in our community. Since starting as a fulltime artist in 2000 I’ve seen many ‘Open’ art exhibitions disappear completely, the majority of those that remain take advantage of artists by charging them for submission and even have the audacity to reject their work once they have pocketed the entry fee. The Art of Caring has its flaws but it is a beacon for many artists and remains a totally inclusive exhibition (no submission fee, no rejection, exhibited in a public place with free entry).

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Art of Caring at St Pancras Hospital

The title for this year’s Art of Caring exhibition was Health is a Human Right, inspired by the 2018 International Nurses’ Day theme. We started at St George’s Hospital, London in May, and we were also asked to put on a special exhibition to celebrate 70 years of the NHS in July. We published a colouring chapbook for this special occasion. More info HERE.

The Art of Caring culminated with the wonderful exhibition at St Pancras Hospital (19th July – 18th October 2018), with singing, dancing and a fine array of original artwork. Long may this exhibition continue, it is now established as a unique exhibition in the Arts Calendar.

QMUL_festival_of_communities_1aCommunity Festivals
This year has seen me get involved with more collaborators and reach new audiences by working with the universities at Kingston, St Georges, Queen Mary, and UCL.

I started with the Festival of Communities at Stepney Green Park where I created a life-size Operation game with Harvey Wells at Queen Mary University London.

Over the next few months I’ll be collaborating with the Max Planck Centre and UCL at the Bloomsbury Festival (17-21 October). In November I’ll be creating a walking map with Harvey again for the Being Human Festival.

Geoff_Berner_word_4_50%Album Art and Jazz
It has been a quieter few months for me with the album art but one album that particularly stands out is Pete Lee’s debut album, The Velvet Rage, on Ubuntu Music. I’ve also been lucky enough to create covers for Ornate – Terry Emm and Two – Tumultuous Tenors.

I’ve been experimenting with a new style in my gig sketches (see right, Geoff Berner). It’s been another brilliant few months as artist-in-resident on the radio show A World in London with DJ Ritu. I love going in every Wednesday and drawing the musicians as they perform. I was even lucky enough to be interviewed when I launched by London Violins chapbook and exhibition. You can listen to me chatting with violinists Alice Barron and Richard Jones by following this link… http://artofjazz.blogspot.com/2018/06/london-violins-world-in-london-with-dj.html

 

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What’s real is home exhibition

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Role-players take in the exhibition photo by Bill Mudge

Earlier this month I exhibited my most recent artwork from my time on the simulated mental health ward at Kingston University and St George’s, University of London.  ‘What’s real is home’ included over 30 sketches at the Scene Of Crime House, Kingston University. It is a body of artistic work that has enabled me to delve even deeper into the mental health labyrinth. It has also increased my appreciation of the people who help guide us through it’s twists and turns.

This time last year I took my first tentative steps into the simulated mental health ward at Kingston University and St George’s, University London. I was unprepared for the process and theatre that awaited me. Since then my artistic life has dovetailed with the course, actors and staff. The sketches from last year formed a successful exhibition, a film which was screened at the BFI London, a loan of work to the Recovery exhibition at the Institute of Mental Health (Nottingham) and a series of articles online and in print.

Putting up the show

Putting up the show. Photo by Bill Mudge

I returned to the ward in 2014 alongside psychotherapist and tutor Harvey Wells. In addition to sketching, we also recorded the dialogue between patients and nurses on the simulated ward. These sound recordings inspired two short films that have been embraced by the international film circuit.

‘Ping Pong Paranoia’ was screened at the MORPHOS Immersive Video Dome Art festival in Los Angeles, USA.

‘What’s Real Is Home’ features the poetry of Robin Vaughan-Williams and premiered at the Filmpoem Festival (2014) in Antwerp, Belgium.

This year we recorded the voices of the ‘patients’ on the ward. We used these monologues as a creative springboard to explore a whole range of mental health themes. One of the most powerful sound recordings was from ‘Sandra’ who is played by actor Lindsay Shepherd. We were honoured that Lindsay attended the opening of the exhibition with some of the fellow role-players. It is her voice that appears alongside experimental jazz trio Toy Rokit on the film ‘Ping Pong Paranoia’. The film explores the ever increasing anxiety and claustrophobia felt by the paranoid patient ‘Sandra’ as she voices her concerns about being stuck on the ward.

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Sketch of Kevin Acott. Photo by Bill Mudge

The story isn’t over for ‘Ping Pong Paranoia’ either, just last night I attended another screening of the film at the Greenhorn Film Festival’s Animation Freakatorium in Crouch End. Amongst a high quality programme of short films, our modest film held its own despite its small budget. The full programme can be found at http://www.greenhornfestival.com/programme-2014/film-programme

It was both unnerving and exciting to be able to hang the exhibition at the Scene of Crime House at Kingston University. It was one of those nights that seemed very dark indeed. Luckily we had the services of photographer Bill Mudge, who captured some evocative images on his camera. See his full portfolio from the night here – http://mudgephoto.wordpress.com/portfolio/whats-real-is-home/

One part of the exhibition that brought a smile to everyone’s lips was the Train or Ward installation. This was comprised of 48 vignettes that documented one-sided conversations heard on trains from around the UK and within the Simulated Mental Health ward. Visitors to the exhibition were asked to guess where each conversation originated from. Was it Train or Ward?

courtesy of Bill Mudge

Outside the Scene of Crime House. Photo by Bill Mudge

These vignettes were first exhibited at the NOSE Festival in Exeter on the 29th March 2014 as a set of magnetic artworks each measuring 5 x 7cm. They were placed on lampposts and railings throughout the city. The public were invited to pick them up and collect or to leave for people to discover throughout the festival. Harvey Wells joined me both in installing the magnets and in the simulated ward where we instigated the project.

The ‘Train or Ward’ instillation aims to break down the boundaries by taking Art out of the gallery and into public spaces but also by challenging attitudes towards Mental Health in the community. The ‘normal’ lines are blurred, it is impossible to detect whether a conversation has originated from the mental health ward or the local train. It is clear though that there is humour and pathos in abundance in both these environments.

AL.