Thursday, July 26, 2018

'Cities For People' - Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture

The 1st Festival dedicated to Ho Chi Minh City Public Spaces runs from 25 - 29 July 2018 and as part of the festival I attended a keynote lecture given by Associate Prof. Camilla van Deurs - partner, Director & Team Lead Design at Gehl, Copenhagen, Denmark

Prof. van Deurs introduced us to the work of Gehl and how she and her team strive to put 'the life of public spaces first'.
The many examples she talked us through were stimulating and illustrated the attitude that has many times put Copenhagen at the top of world rankings for the world's most liveable cities. I was particularly interested in the point she made about how children are an important indicator of any public space. Wherever adults feel safe to let go of a child's hand, where they are allowed to run free, to play - then this is indeed a space that is safe and comfortable. Her practice put people first, which may not be a new idea but it certainly makes a refreshing change from the usual obsession with traffic.

Of course, Denmark is very different from Vietnam. In Saigon especially, the roads are bursting at the seams. During rush hour, pavements become additional lanes for motor-scooters and pedestrians need to take extra special care at these times. Work is still underway on the first line of the local Mass Transit Railway but when this single line opens in around 1-2 years, I predict it will not make much impact on the number of vehicles on the roads.

The cultural life of the city is vibrant with almost every conceivable spare piece of land at some time during the day becoming a make-shift cafe or restaurant with the addition of a few tables and chairs hastily arranged.  To me this is an asset, the city is enriched by these activities. In other cities in Asia, Hong Kong for example, the street food and hawking culture is under siege by the authorities who seem intent on destroying the very culture that brings life to the streets and also attracts many overseas visitors.

However, some things could be easily improved without too much expense or upheaval. Many pavements are so filled with parked motor-scooters that pedestrians need to walk in the road. Many pavements are also in a terrible state of repair and I feel that it would be very difficult for a wheel-chair user to get around the city.

As an artist, and currently a 'walking artist' I was particularly drawn to the way that the Gehl team gathered data from the city and converted it into visual and readable images that could communicate the team's ideas and plans. In essence I feel I have been doing something similar. I recently completed a colour digital print that I worked on by physically walking the streets to become acquainted with the layout, the colours etc. and my observations were fed directly into the image of the print.

The University of Architecture website can be found here.

More about Gehl here.

Information about the founders, Jan Gehl here, and Ingrid Gehl here.

University of Architecture, Ho Chi Minh City
(Photo: Patrick S. Ford)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

International Drawing Dialogue Phase 2, 2018 - Completed

Phase 2 of the drawing dialogue initiative has reached its culmination, with an exhibition from 12-19 July 2018 at the Educational Research Centre in the city of Katerini, northern Greece.

My work on this project began last November with four unresolved drawings that sprang from another project of mine employing frottage techniques to record textures on large rocks I found in the landscape in Hong Kong. The marks resulting from this process began to take on a certain character that I felt resembled some kind of language, albeit unknown. Keeping this thought in my mind as I worked, I imagined that I was actually compiling a text and as the marks gradually built up they developed relationships among themselves that could almost have been syntactical.

Once these four drawings had reached a satisfactory state I posted them to Georgia Boukla in the UK, so that she could continue work on them. A little while later, four drawings made by Jane Kennington, also in the UK, arrived and I laid them out so I could get to know them a little better.
Once I had become more familiar with them I began work, attempting to develop the image further without pushing it to a resolution...sometimes not so easy to do. These four drawings were then posted to Georgia so she could attempt to resolve them.

When the final set of four drawings arrived, it was my responsibility to guide the images to a resolved state. In fact, by this stage, the three of us had in front of us a set of four drawings that had been worked on by the other two collaborators. Once this stage had been completed all the resulting drawings would be sent to a common location to be exhibited.

It turned out that due to certain circumstances, I would be leaving Hong Kong and so I had to work hard in an effort to resolve the images before I left. I had to work quickly and make some quick decisions, which is something I do not like to do when I'm working on such drawings, especially as part of such a unique project. I much prefer to wait and allow the drawing itself to guide me to a conclusion.

I have tried to combine photographs of the three stages of each drawing so that the progress is easier to see. Some of the images are better than others as they were taken quickly for reference rather than for archival purposes. The final stage of the third set of drawings is left blank at the moment as I do not yet have access to the resulting images that are, hopefully, now on show in the exhibition in Greece. [This will be updated if / as soon as the final images have been obtained].

Once again, I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work on this collaborative project. The results are unexpected and the work was challenging, yet so rewarding. An artist's practice can often be quite a solitary existence and so this project is a chance for me to break out of my usual methodologies and to take a step sideways to encounter a new experience. I have learnt so much from this project and I think I could not wish for more. I would like to thank and congratulate the organiser, Gabriela Boiangiu and my two collaborators, Georgia Boukla and Jane Kennington.

Exhibition Venue: Educational Research Centre
(photos courtesy of Erini and Georgia Boukla, Gabriela Boiangiu)

Combined Stages of the Drawings:

Round 1:

    Patrick                         +                    Georgia                   +                    Jane  

Round 2:

       Jane                      +                   Patrick                    +                Georgia



       Jane                     +                    Patrick                   +                 Georgia

Round 3

Georgia                +                    Jane                    +                     Patrick 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Dennis Creffield, 1931-2018

I was saddened to read that the artist Dennis Creffield had passed away, and that it had been two days before I had picked up on the news.

I will not attempt to write an obituary for Dennis because that has already been done with great respect by others much more academic than I am. However, I would like to recount a story of loose connections that I noticed as I was reading back on his career as an artist.

I grew up in Leeds, Yorkshire in the north of the UK and attended Leeds College of Art (Jacob Kramer College of Art as it was known back then) and I frequented Fine Art degree shows held at the local Leeds Polytechnic (later to become Leeds Beckett University) and also Leeds University.

In 1977-78 I first attended the Pre-BA Foundation Course but after reflecting on my output of work and arriving at a less than satisfactory outlook upon it, I decided to work for two years in order to save up the money to pay myself through the course again. In 1980-81 I repeated the year and this time everything seemed to slot into place. I guess the first time I was looking for something that wasn't there, a secret perhaps that would explain how to become an artist. In 1980 I realised that there was no secret, in fact I needed to look inside myself to discover the way forward.

Dennis had spent a year teaching at Leeds University in 1964-65, just up the road from my alma mater, although by the time I had reached art school Dennis had already left for Brighton on the south coast. His first solo exhibition had been held at Leeds City Art Gallery in 1964, the same gallery where I saw my first art exhibition in 1976: wonderful paintings by Stanley Spencer.

The Guardian obituary also talked about his friendship with the poet Peter Redgrove and how they used to  frequent Schofield's Department Store, which I knew well. Sadly this store has long-since been demolished.

Interestingly, earlier this year I became involved with a collaborative drawing project entitled (tele)consequences initiated by Professor Paul Sermon and Jeremy Radvan of Brighton University. Not long after this project had taken place, I was packing up my books in preparation for a move and came across many volumes of the work of Peter Redgrove, books I had collected years earlier while still living in the UK.

Dennis had been a student of David Bomberg, who's work I also greatly admire and so it should be no surprise that I included examples of work by both artists when I gave a lecture and ran a half-day drawing workshop at Kyoto Saga University of Arts, Japan, back in 2013. If anyone is investigating the drawing process and wish to experience the power and emotional impact of drawing, then you could do no better than to examine the work of these two formidable artists.

More detailed information can be found at the following links:

The Guardian Obituary here.

Creffield talking about his working process here.

'Body and Soul', Dennis Creffield exhibition at the James Hyman Gallery here.

'English Cathedrals: Drawings by Dennis Creffield' here.

'Dennis Creffield: Paintings of Petworth' here.

At the Tate Gallery here.

Biography at the Borough Road Gallery here.

British Art Portfolio here.

At Waterhouse & Dodd, London here.

At the University of Brighton here.

Images from the Tate Gallery, links to original website in the image title.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Exhibitions at The Factory in District 2

On Sunday 1st July I searched out The Factory in District 2, a new area of Saigon for me to explore. As I approached I quickly recognised the venue from the irregularly stacked containers, painted in bright colours.

Several people had already arrived in anticipation of events to be held later, part of the exhibition 'Hoa No - Exhibition of Rage'. Many of the works comprising this exhibition didn't really express 'Rage' for me, several were contemplative and some apparently had disguised any rage that was felt as it was not immediately apparent in the work. I'm not sure if this contradiction was intentional or not.

In the main exhibition hall I found 'The Oration for Ten Types of Sentient Beings', an exhibition of the work of Pham Tran Viet Nam. These long, unstretched canvases had been painted upon, ripped apart, recombined, cut, stitched, repainted etc. creating a fairly thick sandwich of layers recording the creative process, a kind of palimpsest.
I had seen some of the artist's work last week at the A.Farm exhibition and it was good to see several of the pieces in-situ. The hanging was complementary to the work, using large rollers to hold the work in 3D configurations that really showed the work to its best advantage. It was possible to read the work face-on, but also to see the reverse (that displayed the methods of construction more clearly), and it was even possible to look through the perforations in the work to other pieces in the exhibition.

The work appeared to change in nature as I walked around the show, hovering delicately between two and three dimensions. At one point the work resembled a precious, exotic carpet while at others it suggested theatre scenery. This is an example of the best kind of exhibition, one that rewards further inspection and consideration.

As I left The Factory, the rain made its familiar late-afternoon appearance and it was a relief to be able to grab a taxi without waiting too long.