Words by Deborah Laing
There was something about this month’s exhibition at Arena Studios and Gallery that felt intimate: why? Maybe it was due to the small gallery space, the hot weather, the gallery spot lights or the fact that 52 pieces of A5 size artworks sat side by side; neatly like crisp handkerchiefs on a washing line. Multiple hangings grouped together respectfully by artist Catherine Harrison; rows of postcard works vying for attention. Digital prints sat by photographic landscapes, watercolour and collages with paper sculpture with pen and ink works.
The preview gave the artists both from London and Liverpool a chance to socialise, to chat. The exchange of artist’s thoughts and ideas is not new, of course, neither the exchange of postcards. The postcards like the works exhibited on the night were for sale; some were sold maybe as a gift or a personal possession. The art entered the next stage or journey once stamped for approval, set free to travel, each one containing authentic meanings triggering precipitants that once taken home may result in deeper engagement. The works were ‘working examples’ like notes on a postcard a selective choice of contained text and imagery to suit the remit.
The commercial aspect of pop-up exhibitions provides a platform for both the production and the promotion of art freeing the work from its conception so that it opens the creative process to be exchanged and enjoyed. Does it therefore lose its original value once travelled? Early postcards partly replaced sealed letters in the late 19th century, and in Britain the back of a postcard was split into two in the early 20th century so that the sender and receiver were clearly visible and distinguishable.
Transparency being the key, I asked some of the artists taking part on the night – Wendy Williams, Lily Nelson, Maria Juchnowska, Catherine Harrison, Joanne McCellan and Georgia Mae Doughty – the following questions.
Wendy, who will you send your paper inspired art to and why?
I like the idea of just one person finding it. Maybe I would place it in a bottle and throw it out to sea.
What inspires you to produce the piece?
Travel. All of my work is about recycling. Using means of transport in my work is a metaphor for an object continuing a journey.
And you Lily, who will you, send your collage pop art to and why?
I would post it to the future so it can help explore what art and life is like now, as I see both inseparable. To learn from the past and make a better future.
What inspired you to produce your abstract piece Jo?
My postcards were prints of earth abstracts, and their connection in the cosmos.
Georgia where would you like your photographic postcard work to travel?
If my art was to travel?……… I would post it to Japan or somewhere exotic in the east. It would be interesting to find out what happens to it. …. I’d love to see an art swap!
What inspired you?
I found an abandoned hospital and the eeriness and darkness of it really inspired me. All the old equipment was still there and there were cartoons painted in the children’s ward….
What if the postcard was the only way to communicate?
I think I would just adept and change my work naturally, like any artist my work is constantly changing and evolving.
Catherine, how would your alchemy inspired work evolve?
Through experimenting, constructing and transforming natural materials, I want to bring a new perspective and life to these objects…
And the postcard version?
I would develop one large piece to be cut into segments and use symbols as a form of communication from my fascination with found objects already corroded by nature’s elements.
Maria Jj Juchnowska was one of the artists in the exhibition from London, and her work stood out providing a visual break and alternative form to the exhibition. Hung ornately, two ceramic pieces on the wall delicately sat. I posed the usual question…
Where did you get your inspiration?
My inspiration in producing pieces comes from the outside world, human nature and the human body along with the private experiences of everyday.
Maria without knowing it had answered another question posed about the value of work, the personal space of the artist and its original authenticity. It can be derived that all artists had a common purpose, to showcase their work and ask each other questions alternatively the collaborative exhibition is a democratized form and the chance to exchange ideas. When asked all the artists were prepared to compromise if given the postcard format but it went against their very nature to restrict the creative process in which they worked.
Commercial postcards depicting artwork are merely tokens to take away from an art gallery, a stamp that verifies your lifestyle choice. In contrast the work produced by the Soup Collective transpired as truly creative, independent and inspirational.