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Features

Well, Smack My Melon and Call Me Kim Fielding! The sudden and untimely death of artist, arch ‘instictator’ * and extraordinary character Kim Fielding threw the many thousands of his friends and collaborators into deep mourning. Artist Simon Mitchell, co-founder of the artists’ space tactileBOSCH, attempts to pin down what drove Fielding and to reflect on the legacy that began in his lifetime. *Editor’s note: Kim Fielding described himself as “an instictator”, a hybrid of instigator and dictator

‘Well smack my melon and call me Jesus!’ was just one of the many ‘barking’ phrases frequently repeated throughout Kim’s life. His American tinged baroque take on the English language could make his text messages utterly undecipherable. It did, however, lead to some of the greatest exhibition titles I’ve ever come across and a business card printed with the words ‘Kim Fielding is… dark, red and sticky’. Kim developed his mid Atlantic dialect having left Wales at a young age, spending several years on the West Coast of America before heading east and settling in New York City. That time in Kim’s life is for someone else to write about but it’s clear from the stories he told, both hilariously funny and painfully sad, that this period was an enormous influence on making him the person and artist that I came to know so well. It had given him a confidence and a drive that, coupled with his flamboyant personality, made for a very unique character. We first met in the Howard Gardens art school bar in Cardiff. He was working on a series of photographs called ‘Your Head on my Box’, an ongoing project that cropped up in the most unlikely of places. He would usher people into a darkened room, drape them in black cloth and rest their chin on a light box. Then between snorts of laughter and a few encouraging words - ‘smile darlink. Think of Wales!’ - he would fire off a whole roll of film in rapid succession. 6 — Issue 03

That particular series of photographs, which must number in the thousands, encapsulates many of the traits and themes that ran through Kim’s art and life: his ability to meet people and immediately make friends; to make the shyest of people feel at ease; his prolific use of a camera and his desire to be continually creative in any manner possible. It’s common now for us to discuss the blurring of boundaries between artworks and the lives of those who make them, there are many examples of artists who encourage this as part of their practice. With Kim, however, it was involuntary, an entirely natural process. Every moment of Kim’s day became part of his expanding oeuvre: curating group exhibitions; photographing bands (see Heavy Quartet album cover for more floating heads); making connections with people across the globe; throwing parties; cooking breakfast; photographing weddings (I assisted him at one where he instigated the light box project and the grandmother of the bride was first to place her chin on his box) were all as much a part of his artistic practice as the days spent in the studio with a mouldy plastic toy he’d discover down a back alley. There was humour in the images that Kim created. Humour and ‘sexiness’ are readily apparent when scanning across his back catalogue of exhibited works. There’s also a more sombre, introspective narrative that reflects the ‘darker’, ‘redder’, ‘stickier’ aspects of Kim’s life. Challenges he had fought and won and perhaps others he was still battling. In one particular video work he confronted death head on. A wingbacked chair (taken from a skip outside an old people’s home) is viewed from above as it slowly spirals and descends towards a rocky beach from the cliffs above, looping back to the start right at the moment of impact. A memory of his much loved grandmother, in consideration of his own mortality, a chance taken in one shot and a day out to the beach with friends. It’s all in that piece for me; it’s how I will remember Kim’s art. Bringing people together and encouraging creativity in others is what Kim loved to do and what drove him to work with such unerring ferocity. He found the perfect vehicle for these activities when we opened the doors to tactileBOSCH studios back in 2000. I’d been looking for a studio with fellow artist Mauro

Bonacina for a couple of weeks with no success when Kim joined the search. His connections soon led us, after an initial disappointment in a former solicitor’s office, to an old Victorian laundry building on Andrew’s Road in Llandaff North. When asked what sort of space we were looking for, Kim had told the landlord we wanted it ‘as big as fuck and as cheap as fuck’ and we were duly delivered precisely that. Despite the leaking roof we were elated with what we had found and headed off down the pub to celebrate. I remember saying to Kim that I couldn’t believe we’d managed to get such a great space and that maybe we could not only use it as a studio but perhaps even put on shows. Kim looked at me in utter disbelief, for him this had been his intention all along and he was perplexed that I was only coming to that conclusion so late in the day. We spent a glorious summer clearing out the junk and patching up the roof. Kim was always sweeping, making coffee or taking copious photographs. He would invite new people to visit every day, creating a tremendous buzz around the building that inspired us all. Kim and I had things in common, our passion for art, partying, travelling and laughing copiously but the root of our friendship and the bond we formed developed from our differences. The name tactileBOSCH came about after several pints in the Heathcock pub in Llandaff and was intended to reflect those conflicting character traits between us. We joked over the years about which of us was tactile and which was BOSCH but never settled on an answer. Kim certainly had both elements, and many more. He was tactile; caring, supportive, warm, creative, affable. He was BOSCH: driven, fervent, competitive. All these things combined to make a force to be reckoned with and would propel the gallery through over ten years of successful projects both at home in Wales and across the globe. >>

CCQ 3  

Mirza & Butler, Claire Curneen & Ingrid Murphy, Joyce Pensato, Kim Fielding, Neale Howells, Veronica Feeling

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