From Our Yard - contemporary art publication

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F r o m O u r Ya r d

We are 13 artists, Fellows of the Digswell Arts Trust. This weekend we were due to hold our annual Open Studios event at the Fenners Building in Letchworth. We cannot welcome the public into our studios presently, so instead bring you this publication F r o m O u r Y a r d - a taste of what we have been working on over the last few months, whether that be in the studio, the home studio, or the garden shed. We hope you enjoy this glimpse of our work and insight into our thinking, and look forward to holding the Open Studios event and accompanying exhibition I n O u r Y a r d , later in the year. You can support artists by taking a look at works for sale through the Artists Support Pledge. Feel free to contact the artists directly if you are interested in any of the works featured here.

Cover image, the yard at Fenners Building Š Abi Freckleton

Stuart Jones Fiona Booy Muna Zuberi Veronika Peat Abi Freckleton Sue Pilborough Liz Harrington Julie Leaming Katherine Roberts Maria Merridan Sarah Rooms Heaphy Jaime Freestone Kate Windibank

Digswell Arts Trust is an innovative charity that has been providing studio space and an incubation platform for emerging artists for over 60 years. w: @digswellarts

Stuart Jones w: e: @stuartjonesartist

My work is informed by the urban and rural landscape and ideas of utopia, dystopia and the sublime. I am intrigued by places and spaces that exist within our lives and ideas around natural disasters, climate change and current social and political issues. I use a wide range of media from oil paint and mediums to household paint and spray paint. I am interested in how we are increasingly disconnected from our environment due to technological advancement and in a consistent conflict with the natural world due to the way we live. I approach my work with these ideas and thoughts with the hope that they gain traction in the spaces in the work. The human presence is missing from my paintings enabling the viewer to become the missing human presence within the work, the spaces becoming portals that the viewer has to negotiate into another world, space or time.

Opposite: Urban 2, Oil paint and mixed media on canvas, 182cm x 122cm. All images Š Stuart Jones

Above: Flux. Oil paint and mixed media on canvas, 244cm x 95cm. Opposite: Anthropocene 2. Oil paint and mixed media on canvas, 244cm x 122cm.

Fiona Booy w: e: FionaBooyCeramics @FionaBooyCeramics @StAlbansPottery St Albans Pottery

I am a ceramic artist and pottery teacher based in St Albans. My sculptures tend to start life on the pottery wheel and evolve thereafter – often assembled, stacked or squished together. I love the soft throwing lines and energy of the wheel. I am drawn to natural rock formations caused by erosion, buckling, fault lines etc and this often resonates in my work – through different layers of clays, oxides and inorganics. I also enjoy leaving ‘makers’ marks which highlight the making process and the intriguing behaviour of clay. I like my work to invite curiosity and intrigue – perhaps even a smile. Over the lockdown period I have setup the Make-at-Home Pottery Club based around a series of YouTube projects. Although this began as an initiative for primary school children to help with sanity at home, I was soon asked for projects for teens and adults.

Organic Tea Bowl. All images © Fiona Booy

Balancing. Attitude.

Clockwise from top: The Famous Five. Menhir - standing stone. Stanley and Clementina. Regal.

Leaky jug. Dragon vessel.

Muna Zuberi w: e: @munaglass @munazuberi @munazuberi

Issues around ‘race’ have been a persistent presence in my life and have led me to think about how people categorise one another. Decisions are often made after a flawed understanding of an individual or group – but where do these ideas come from? Cultural heritage is one factor but social influences also shape the ‘person’. These might include class, peer group, social media, fashion and political influences - especially when you are young. My practice focuses on understanding the ‘person’ - their influences and crucially, what has led them to their thinking and understanding of the world – their personal taxonomy. My research on these topics has led me to the wider work of psychologists – especially those who seek to explain by using categorisation and classification to explain complex human states. I am particularly drawn to the idea of expressing empirical data using diagrams as explanatory representations and these often form the basis for my work.

Opposite: Teenage Landscape. 3D glass applique sculpture with painted and fused glass elements Image © Lindsey Robertson LNZPHOTO.

In my piece ‘Plutchik’s Dice’ I have explored emotional states. Psychologist Robert Plutchik’s Theory of Emotions classified emotions into eight primary states – anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust and joy. I have transposed these onto an eight-sided dice where each face represents an emotion. ‘Plutchik’s Dice’ always has one face hidden though you are able to see through from one side to other sides or emotions. A reflection on the fact that life is not that simple and emotions are hard to define and often confused. The octahedron shape makes it impossible to view the dice and gain an understanding of all sides at once – just as it is impossible to categorise a person and their emotional state fully, You are often only presented with the emotions the person wants you to see. Sometimes other emotions are glimpsed but societal constraints mean that for the large part emotions are controlled and displayed as deemed appropriate to the situation. Plutchik's model further categorises emotions - much like secondary colours in the colour wheel. Thus 'trust' and 'joy' combine to give 'love'. 'Trust + Joy = Love' features the visual symbols for these two emotions on opposing sides of a 3D pyramid shape. When viewing the piece, you can see that these symbols mingle and influence each other - describing the ebb and flow of emotions. This piece was made working at home during lockdown.

Plutchik's Dice. Glass applique sculpture with fused glass elements. Trust + Joy = Love. Glass applique sculpture with fused glass elements. All images © Muna Zuberi.

During lockdown I have been working from home. Partly through lack of space and partly as a reaction to the situation, I have reduced the scale of works that I have been making. I have also turned inwards mentally and created a world of happy characters and animals as a partial escape from reality. In the piece above, 'Hive', I thought about how all our worlds were reduced to our own households. I know how we are spending our time, and social media has shown me how others are spending their time. My own household is in the centre of the hive - with myself and my partner and our pets. We also have a plate of toast which represents all the baking my partner has undertaken. We are surrounded by other imagined households. Each household is engaged in different activities - playing Countdown, painting, gardening, doing yoga, on Tiktok, on Zoom with family or looking after kids (a challenge I am sure). The households are shown in a hive formation - which shows how we are all in our separate cells but, like bees in a hive, we are all working together to beat the virus. I have also translated these and similar characters into glass applique panels.

Hive. Pen and pencil drawing. Hand Stand and Sausage Dog. A Girl and her Cat. Both glass applique panel with painted and fused glass elements.

Veronika Peat w: e: @veronikapeat

I was born and grew up in Moscow. My work draws on themes and imagery from Russian literature, history, and folklore, and applies these to wider concerns of contemporary experience and culture. I have a broad practice founded in drawing, painting, writing and digital media. My recent work explores the dysfunctional form of masculinity in the current Russian context, as well as the universal themes of family, childhood, displacement and exile.

Gateway (Zone series). Acrylic on canvas, 60x70cm All images Š Veronika Peat

Rejoice O Bride unwedded (Zone series). Acrylic on canvas, 80x100cm

In March 2020 I was on a residency at PADA studios in Barreiro, Portugal. The location was unique, set in an industrial park next to the sea, amongst pyrite fields and crumbling factories. It was like being in Tarkovsky’s films ‘Solaris’ and ‘Stalker’ in many ways, with layers of history and memory coming through onto the surface the more I explored the place. True time-and-place travelling. This inspired a new series of work which I titled ‘ Zone’ – drawings and paintings in response to me finding a connection with the place. Sadly, the residency was cut short by current events, but I continued to work at home. In April my work from the residency was shown online at PADA studios as part of the exhibition ‘Almost There,’ alongside other artists involved in the residency. Since then I’ve also been writing and I completed ‘Gateway’, a reflection on my experience of the residency at PADA.

Podium - pink and blue (Zone series). Acrylic on board, 62x54cm.

Currently I am working on a self-initiated documentary film project, largely inspired by contemporary Russian ‘realnost’ documentary films I discovered during the lockdown through online festivals. My mentor is Elena Demidova, a filmmaker from Marina Rasbezhkina’s ‘Documentary Film School’ in Moscow. Together with Teatr.doc, also based in Moscow, and a group of twelve other Russian filmmakers, we are examining our current ‘reality’ through the language of cinema.

Cosmonaut (Zone series). Acrylic on board, 59x54cm

Abi Freckleton w: @abifreckleton

Traversing sculpture, moving image and performance, my practice addresses the physicality of vision and the role of the body in perception. My research into the nature of seeing in the age of the digitised image manifests in a practice that prioritises work in progress. Studio processes such as moulding, painting, drawing or editing are acted out in performed activities or displayed live. Painted, printed, and projected surfaces sit next to ceramic, plaster and found objects. Things that are often considered secondary or preparatory (tools, materials, left-overs, offcuts) are presented with equal standing to more intentional outcomes.

All my photos of sea. Paper made from inkjet prints of screen grabs, lustre-glazed ceramic. All photos Š Abi Freckleton

The beetle, Poem. Test piece, Black stoneware & stained parian. Interference, Stained parian on gloss print.

I’ve managed to carry on making during lockdown by converting my garden shed to a small studio. The restrictions this has brought (on time, materials, space......) has helped me consolidate my ideas, trial different modes of research, and discover new processes (paper-making). I’ve been continuing to develop a body of work that I started pre-lockdown - based on a piece of writing I did after finding a beautiful dead blue beetle - and have been spending more time experimenting with video, considering things such reviewing, selecting and editing in the same way as shaping clay or applying paint.

Isolation paper 2, Blue felt tip scribble, Orange sugar paper, Phase 3 phonics sound chart, Kitchen paper with black clay, Purple and black handwriting practice, Newspaper with salt and prussian blue pigment stains, November 2018 newspaper fragments, Bath potters delivery receipt, Pink and orange poster paint on blue sugar paper, Week 3 “planets and space theme” home learning, Notes from yesterday’s zoom call. Rainbow gesture, Video still. Glare selection, Video still.

Sue Pilborough w: e: @suepilborough

My art practice varies: installation, sculpture, drawing and photography, playing with natural forms, various medium to enhance ambiguity and uncanniness.

The Flow, 2020. Scrim, PVA, string and thread. All images Š Sue Pilborough

Embodiment, 2019. Dyed rope, wire, thread and scrim.

My recent fascination with shadows and their indistinct, distorted shapes offer a suggestion of the original form. The shadow is not a true interpretation of the subject but an askew semblance. I like the hint, a suggestion of the object which is ambiguous and yet known. So, my collection of photographs of these shadows from my ‘yard’ tells another ‘picture’ of my home and garden. This is a taster of my initial works, that still needs many a tweaking……. Also playing around with ‘reflections’ - some initial pics I’m working with:

I have had plans, but have found it difficult to create in my usual 3D way during lockdown. I do not have a designated space nor psychological space at home that I find I need. On the other hand, it has focussed me on other projects with photography that normally would be shelved as I become involved with a 3D piece.

Liz Harrington w: @_lizharrington @alternative.lgc

I am currently researching and developing two long term photographic based projects, both which focus on transcience, memory and time - ongoing themes in my work. The first project is based on the desolate coastal landscape at Orfordness and Shingle Street in Suffolk, where I have been visiting on and off for the last 10 years, and the second a study of trees. My interest in process and materiality is a key component of my practice, and part of this is developing my knowledge of various printing techniques and how they respond to different papers and substrates. Last year I secured funding from The Richard & Siobhán Coward Foundation to enable me to experiment with some early photographic printing processes. As a result I am now in the process of producing a series of platinum prints, using some new imagery from Orfordness and Shingle Street. Alongside this I am continuing the research and work I started on the 2019/20 AA2A residency at the University of Hertfordshire (which unfortunately had to be cut short), producing works for ‘Trees’ (WT) and experimenting with some new techniques. The physical imprint of the natural environment in the actual making of the work is growing in importance in my work. This might be using leaves to produce prints in the sun, using shedded tree bark as a substrate, nature being the mark maker on light sensitive materials that have been physically immersed in the environment - making what is often the invisible, or a fleeting moment, visible. In addition to my practice I have also recently established a new photographic initiative alternative.lgc, to showcase analogue and experimental photography, alternative processes and photobooks.

Opposite: Platinum/palladium test prints on mulberry paper. Norton Common, Letchworth and Orfordness, Suffolk, printed 2020. Supported by The Richard & Siobhán Coward Foundation.

Work in progress and test prints for Trees (WT). Silver gelatin lumen hybrid, tea toned silver gelatin and lumen print on Ilford MG Art 300 fibre paper using phytogram as a paper negative, 2019/2020. Tea toned and solarised silver gelatin prints, 2018.

Edit of 16 small silver gelatin prints on Ilford matt fibre paper, 2019. Silver gelatin test strip, 2018. Solarised silver gelatin print, 2018. Platinum print on Japanese Iwami paper, 2020. All images Š Liz Harrington.

Julie Leaming w: e: @julieleamingart

I work with charcoal, paper and clay to produce drawings and ceramic sculptures which examine landscapes and living organisms, exposing their structures and detailed networks eroded in their surface. Monochrome in colour, the work is an abstracted, raw and revealing look into both our landscape and our physiological journey.

Wings, Paper clay. 60cmx 35cmx 4cm (close up) All images Š Julie Leaming

The artwork that I have made in the last few months has of course been influenced by the restrictions imposed by my new space, the equipment to hand and logistics of producing ceramic works away from a studio space and in the home. The subject matter has also changed slightly, whilst my drawings and photos are but a starting point for my creations my influences have wandered from the rugged mountain views to my more immediate surroundings, insects, plants and even the ripples from a stream have been the focus of one piece.

Queen Bee, Drawing (close up).

When starting a piece of work I like to focus on a current article in the news often around the subject of climate, natural science or human biology. Whilst the initial focus of the work is often on the structures and patterns of the object the material I choose reflects a further story. My recent body of work uses thin paper and clay fired leaving fragments, revealing a sense of fragility in the work a reflection on the effects of our changing climate and world. Further illustrated in the case of the recent wing art work (above) a reference to the recent Chronic bee paralysis virus which has stunted the growth of the wings on the honey bee. Viruses come in many forms!! All the work shown here has been made over the last two months and are not the finish pieces. Most of the finished and mounted work will be on show and for sale at the Fenners Open Studio hopefully rescheduled for later in the year.

Tidal Water, Paper clay. Dragonfly half, Paper clay.

Hybrid, Paper clay. Evolving, Paper clay.

Katherine Roberts w: e: @artykarobe

I explore themes of transformation, movement and bodies. Working with orifices, spaces between, softness and heaviness in my sculptures. I am energised by working in collaboration with others. It pushes me outside of my normal patterns of thought. It is satisfying when I can’t be certain where their work ends and mine begins. I’ve recently been working with photographer Kasia Burke. Kasia had recently started working with intentional camera movement in her still life’s and we could see exciting possibilities for exploring this with a live subject. I always created micro performances in my studio, I rarely share or coherently document them. Working with Kasia allows me to explore my sculptures and materials through performance and create new work where the creative control over the outcome is shared equally. On my lockdown walks I’ve been noticing how we shape our landscape. I’ve noticed bright coloured allotment frames with plants creeping up behind this agricultural tracing paper. For years now I’ve been obsessed with a pair of concrete steps. They stand watch at either end of a new footbridge. A stairway to nowhere, useless. The landscape has a loose, unruly charm, this year I’ll make a temporary sculpture for these steps.

Work in progress. Created in collaboration with Kasia Burke. Performance with recycled sculptural materials and dried flowers, photograph taken using intentional camera movement. Image © Kasia Burke Photography

It’s like dancing a feeling into the word. Neither of you is quite sure where you are going. No interest in perfection. The right ones radiate energy. Let go of insecurities, to be in that moment with the other, it’s easier to push down boundaries leaning

lying falling

laughter, joy and adventure. Being cramped, bruised and uncomfortable is essential Still The weight of the thing, living.

A studio performance from 2017 just after graduation. Detail of a completed sculpture for the exhibition Tremble | Tromos 2019 (image © Corey Bartle Sanderson). Latex drying on a clay structure to make the latex skin of the sculpture depicted. All other images © Katherine Roberts.

Studio performance. Selfie taken while working on Tremble | Tromos. Photograph of a studio performance with recycled sculptural materials taken using intentional camera movement. Created in collaboration with Kasia Burke. Image Š Kasia Burke Photography

Maria Merridan w: e: @mariamerridan

I work with mixed media; print, collage and drawing. Without normal access to working tools or space during Lock-Down, I started to learn how to construct images digitally. For a 30 day period (01.05.20 – 30.05.20) I recorded my daily movement by tracking routes with an App called Strava and taking photographs. Initially, I looked for commonality between the marks I saw, for example; lines created by water runoff, the pathways used by people and the tracks made by animals. Over the days, routes became more purposeful, focusing on land-marks, areas of scientific interest and local history. I am contemplating time and how it is measured and recorded. The insignificant statistics of my daily exercise (revealing how alive I am) compared to the significant numbers of UK deaths from Covid-19. The phases of the moon, daylight/night-time, places that no longer exist and people who are now gone.

Blunham Walk and Doves. Runoff and Crows. Mother’s Moon. Dead Shrew. Wimpole. Otto Von Smekal Grave. William Ernest Henley.

All images Š Maria Merridan

30 Days of Lock-Down * The daily UK Covid-19 death numbers on artwork ‘30 Days of Lock-Down’ were extracted from data provided at :-

Experiment 1. Experiment 2. Experiment 3. Experiment 4.

Sarah Rooms Heaphy w: Sarah Rooms Heaphy Ceramics @roomsheaphyceramics

I am a Ceramic Artist working with Porcelain clay making abstract sometimes functional vessels. These pieces have highly textured, printed surfaces designed to capture the atmosphere of the coast, harbours and strata of the beach. I joined Digswell Fenners Studio complex with the intention of developing my practise away from smaller domestic pieces, to experiment with scale. The facilities allowed use of larger kilns, dedicated space for experimentation, exhibition possibilities and a network of like-minded artists. I have spent the time working on large surface ceramic printing, flat porcelain panels, and constructing larger shapes.

All images Š Sarah Rooms Heaphy

Mark-making Thoughts, Approx 46cm x 46cm. Abstract Wind & Sea, a collection. Approx 70cm x 70cm.

Working solely from my home studio during lockdown, without clay, I have had the time to ask why and where my inspiration comes from. I have challenged myself to paint rather than using my sketchbook just to record ideas. Unable to visit the coast, I searched through the last 10 years of photographs. What did I record? Capturing the vastness of a coast, the mood of the clouds, the wildness of the waves, colours, textures and pattern. I also found video. “Thundering waves” “Crunching along a stony beach” “Rattling boat masts in the harbour” This combination of photography, video, and memory took me straight back to each walk. I was able to revisit places, immersed in the aesthetic experience, the nostalgia, recapturing the sight, sound, taste, smells of the coast. My daily lockdown ritual has been to paint with bold colours and strong mark making. To capture the wildness of the elements, the noise of the waves, texture of the beach, and the marks of nature as it totally surrounds me, a form of escape from this everyday life. To play with the idea of being absorbed, immersed, surrounded, in nature’s power.

Wild Beach, Rough Sea. 90cm x 90cm.

Jaime Freestone @jaime_freestone_art

I would like to start by saying that I’m feeling very fortunate to have my shed art studio during the lockdown. I have adjusted my work slightly to working on a smaller sized canvas, while continuing to explore my chosen art materials. Found objects from the street, collected detritus, discards from my own art process and a long list of traditional art materials. I love working with colour and texture! If I’m struggling to move a piece forward having a range of materials to fall back on helps keep the art moving freely. When lockdown was enforced I came across a collection of old frames that I had meant to throw away. Luckily before they went into the bin I saw new potential to transform them and use them in my art work. Over the lockdown period I have been walking lots, tending to my allotment space and escaping often into my studio. I have managed to produce a body of work as diverse as the materials from which they came. Giving the old frames a second life with matching creations to fit. I feel so grateful for having art in my life which I owe a huge amount for helping to keep me happy and my mind healthy. Having a space to create and being able to escape into has proven very important for allowing me to continue to work during these difficult and confusing times.

Image opposite: Fragmented. All images Š Jaime Freestone

Barren Island. Study of a skull.

I’ve only been there in a dream. Infections of a different kind.

Kate Windibank w: e: @firedthings @firedthings

My practice involves an exploration of form and surface encompassing ceramic materials, fragmentation and natural processes. Drawing inspiration from the structure and textures of nature, I use concepts of geological formation and erosion to suggest the transformational nature of time on the foundations of human experience and identity. The process begins with soft clay slabs which are torn, then pressed into moulds, once firm, the clay is broken into shards and used to construct ceramic vessels. Each fragment is carefully considered to find the most intriguing sense of balance and contrast, strength and fragility. This methodology creates forms with undulating edges, fault-lines and fissures. The final metamorphosis occurs during firing: As the heat-work of the kiln turns clay to stone, oxides embedded in the clay are drawn out, reacting and flowing with glaze to create movement and texture that remains permanently captured on the surface of the vessel. Once complete the work still shows its transformational journey, as objects that can be investigated and reappraised, each viewing reveals new juxtapositions of detail, process, form and event.

Opposite: spherical vessel, h22cm w24cm d24cm Image Š Kate Windibank.

Early this year I was approached by Kalpa Art Living to develop a group of sculptural vessels to sell at their beautiful gallery in Volterra, Tuscany. My plan was to drive to Italy to deliver the pieces in person but as I worked around the clock to finish in time for delivery in March, Covid 19 had started its spread and just as I completed the work the news broke that Italy was closing its borders. I decided to ship the vessels instead but in all the confusion, the crate disappeared and no-one could tell me where it was. After two weeks I was starting to think the worst when I received the news that the shipment had arrived. This was the day before Italy went into total lockdown, the gallery staff had time to open the crate and check that everything was intact before they had to lock up the gallery and leave. After months of waiting the gallery reopened on the first weekend in June. I hope to be able to visit before the end of the year and see my work on display in this beautiful setting.

Selection of work at Kalpa Art Living, Volterra, Italy. Image Š Kasia Burke.

During the lockdown I have missed working at the Digswell Arts studios. My studio in the Fenners building is a spacious, light filled space and I love interacting with the other artists there. The stimulation and mutual support that comes from being part of the community of artists at Digswell is invaluable to me. My studio at home is a small workshop on the side of my garage, which I have to share with several large spiders but I am lucky to have space to work and also to have a kiln so can carry on making and firing.

My work involves constant exploration and experimentation. I have used the weeks of the lockdown period to explore new ways of creating my vessels; playing with form, trialling different clay bodies, experimenting with ceramic materials to create coloured and textured surfaces that develop during firing. I have fired many tests in the last few weeks so I am hoping to emerge from lockdown with a wealth of new information to take my work forward.

Inlaying interactive slip in my studio at home. Images Š Kate Windibank.

F r o m O u r Ya r d Ju n e 2 020

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