Yesterday I attended another one-day workshop at Green Hill Arts in Moretonhampstead (see Bookbinding class for an account of the previous one). Advertised as ‘a day of conversation and hands-on activity’ it was led by Mark Jessett, Robert Manners and Seamus Staunton; three artists whose current exhibition at the gallery entitled ‘Fathoms Fragments Fieldwork’ continues until 3 June. A morning of illustrated talks was followed by an afternoon of practical experimenting, with each artist taking a turn at sharing some aspect of their current practice.

The morning talks were interestingly varied in content and questions were encouraged and answered in depth. The time passed quickly and when we came back from lunch tables had been set out and promising-looking piles of materials were starting to emerge.

The afternoon began with a session led by Seamus StauntonSeamus is a sculptor who works with colour as well as shape and he’d explained earlier how carrying out a commission to create a wall installation for a hospital had led him to experiment with applying coloured vinyl sheeting onto his customary wooden or metal forms as an alternative to paint. The pieces that he’s currently exhibiting in the gallery also feature flat unbroken areas of colour and under his direction we set about assembling collages from thin card and double-sided tape. It’s easy to overlook the ways in which simple working methods can generate ideas for further investigation and the exercise was a reminder that taking time out to experiment can be more productive than labouring single-mindedly towards a carefully pre-planned outcome.

Robert Manners led the next session which took us back to monochrome and a concentration on building form and depth through multiple layers of Indian ink. We’d been asked to bring something with us to work from and I’d chosen a chunky but unidentifiable object from my rusty metal collection. Robert’s work combines simplicity of outline and elements of transparency with a feeling of solid presence, and during the morning he had described his fascination with marine debris such as stranded buoys and motifs of submarines and ships. His normal working method involves leaving each application of ink to dry overnight but we were able to get around this by using hairdryers to speed things up. Working on two paintings alternately I managed to complete several layers during the time available and felt I’d understood enough of the process to be able to continue working on this at home.

The practical part of the day was rounded off by Mark Jessett, who began with a a short talk on paint labelling with regard to transparency, translucency and opacity. Mark had spoken earlier about how we can sometimes find it difficult to allow ourselves to embrace the idea of beauty in our practice as artists and his current work has a folkloric feel with multiple applications of many different colours onto textured paper. He showed us how to do this by using old credit cards with notches cut into them and provided us with paints, paper and masking tape so we could try out the technique for ourselves. This led to the energetic application of a wide selection of fast-drying acrylic colours by everyone in the group which was a lot of fun and produced gratifyingly quick results.

All in all it was a very successful day and I’m grateful to Mark, Rob and Seamus and the team at Green Hill Arts for the work they put into making it happen. The generous provision of materials was a bonus and the experience has provided me with plenty of new ideas for future work along with some useful insights into the working methods of three very different artists.

Text and images © Angela Williams 2017

Abstract art workshop
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