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31 December 2010

See SAW next year!

September: "I declare this bridge, open!" (the mayor, not me) Bridge opening ceremony over to Long run Meadows in Taunton with wishing bridge and more...

What would New Year's eve, nay, Christmas even, be without a review of the year! So far the delights of Christmas TV have brought us a top 10 or top 100 of just about everything from music and toys to TV adverts and those 'embarrassing' celebrity moments. Now with pleasure and without further ado, I bring you the unofficial SAW review of the year 2010!!!
And what a year its been!

Ok, we started the year (on a personal note) with I suppose what was my first real introduction to working with SAW through a public art project, called 'Routes, river, rail' working with local artist, Sue Palmer. This was a really exciting project and allowed us as artists to collect ideas from the community around some of the plans involved in the re-development of Taunton. This is really just a review, but elements of this study we hope will carry on into 2011. Please see following link to my blog about the project for further information:
Later in July we had Fiona Campbell working on the 'Making Matters' project at Carrymoor featuring wire sculptures in the natural environment. In fact more recently there has been the 'Making Matters' Great Crane Project working with schools and local artists in West Sedgemoor, elements of this project which I believe are continuing on into 2011.
In the summer of 2010 via a networking evening hosted by SAW a new group of artists 'emerged' on the scene. Thus SEAN, or Somerset emerging artists network was born. Starring all your favourite protagonists, the art group, SEAN, started as they hope to continue with an exhibition at the Auction House in Taunton, Somerset. Featuring pretty much a consensus of current or past Somerset College, Fine Art graduates (what can I say? I'm bias) as well as several emerging artists from the South West the show was a diverse collection of contemporary work and styles.
The summer time was certainly not a quiet one and the 'Safe routes' project with SPAEDA and SAW took place with lead artist Julie Roberts working with students at Taunton Academy.
In September all the planning and preparation had finally paid off and Somerset Art Weeks 2010 was launched! This year being an open studios event and was choc full of artistic talent! We had pottery, jewellery, art books, installation, painting, textiles, photography and more! The recession certainly hadn't dampened the enthusiasm and verve of work on offer this year, in fact it meant artists could utilise their studio spaces inviting new dialogue with their visitors and in some cases find unusual venues that were free, like the Tithe barn in Cotley that myself and three other artists were given to use this year. There were loads of special events that took place making this year's art weeks very busy and exciting and probably cannot be done justice in so few words. One particular event of note however was that Art weeks also saw 2010 Reveal award winner, Kitty Hillier have her show of new work at Black Swan arts in Frome. Stay tuned for info of the next year's upcoming art weeks...
When we had time to rest on our laurel's the SEAN artists decided it would be fun to take part in the 'Bridge Opening Ceremony' at Longrun Meadows in Taunton. The ceremony was organised by local musician, Tim Hill and saw The Albion Horns, a troll and many more characters gather at the new bridge to open it in style!
We 'found our way' in October with an artist networking and pecha kucha session at Barrington Court and then by the end of October and November we were protesting against the cuts to arts funding in Somerset.

Phew! And that really isn't probably the half of it! There are plenty of projects taken up by individuals and groups of artists within SAW that took place in 2010. Musgrove Park Hospital, The Octagon, SPAEDA, Take art, Air Gallery, Ilminster Arts centre and honestly so many many more groups and places in which fantastic art projects were made possible in 2010! Then, just when everyone thought they could relax the work for 2011 and art weeks had began!
Thank you very much for reading, I wish you all an arty and prosperous New Year! I have no doubt that there will be plenty more adventures so please as always, keep me posted!

September: Somerset Art weeks Open Studios

November: Save the arts demonstration

July: Somerset emerging artists network exhibition at the Auction House, Taunton

January-March: SAW funded 'Routes, river, rail' project for Taunton Deane

July-September: Making matters project at Carrymoor with artist Fiona Campbell

September: Reveal artist, Kitty Hillier exhibits new work at Black Swan arts

15 December 2010

Lest we forget the Turner Prize.

Monday December the 6th saw Susan Philipsz become the 2010 Turner Prize winner. The fourth female artist to win the Prize (but, alas, not where this debate is going today) and also the first sound artist to win the prize.

The annual art prize hosted by the Tate is now in its 26th year and still attracts a lot of attention from visitors and media alike, often promoting debate and in past years causing controversy (like the now infamous year Tracey Emin's 'Bed' was on show in 1999). In the past it seemed that the prize was an annual event in which the 'Is this art?' debate would once again brought into the public arena via the media. However in recent years the controversy, it seems, has died down, at least in terms of the way the prize is covered in the press. I wonder if the 'Is it art debate?' is truly old old now and if perhaps the question isn't so much about accepting if something can be art, but instead is about asking, why and how the art was made?

Speaking from an art background myself, I don't think I've ever found the Turner Prize to be more 'controversial' or spark any more debate than any other contemporary art I may have seen around the same time. I'd always thought that that in a way questioning and challenging the viewer to think was the whole point of art in the first place? Although, this opinion aside, in terms of how the Prize is portrayed in the media it seems like either one of two things is happening; either we as a Nation viewing art have become more 'used to' or accepting of contemporary art. Are we more adjusted to the potential of walking into an art gallery with the expectation that we could see a sawed in half cow, or piano suspending from the ceiling, or a room full of seeds? Or, is, like some people have written, it that the Turner Prize just not as exciting as in past years? And if so, why? In terms of contemporary art there are definitely plenty of exciting, fresh and poignant artists working, if you want proof take a look at the artists mentioned in my Liverpool Biennial blog and even in the not as media centred world of Somerset I have had the pleasure of seeing work by artists who are certainly working with exciting mediums and ideas in their practices.

Back to the point though, I think maybe the real problem the Turner Prize faces is expectation itself. If we always expect it to be controversial, contemporary, political, funny, outrageous, weird, moving or any number of things it has been in the past, we can only be left disappointed. The prize offers only a chunk of what the bigger art picture has to offer. What its legacy as a prize has left however, has given us some artists like Grayson Perry, Chris Ofili, Anya Gallaccio and so many more. Perhaps without the prize we'd have ended up finding these artists anyway through other awards or exhibitions, but the Turner Prize above all others does have a catalyst-like affect in making artists rise to fame more quickly.

It may be true that audiences are becoming increasingly more difficult to surprise or shock (if those things matter in your practice) but it also means that people are more accepting and willing to understand and read into art. All of this hypothetical type of speculation makes me interested to see how the Turner Prize will evolve in the way its chooses the four artists up for nomination each year? And, perhaps more interestingly in what ways will artists continue to invent and re-invent new art works that continue the debate ever onwards? Too much, to talk about on here, but definitely one reason why, personally myself, am always interested in the Turner Prize, because like all good art, whether 'technically/conceptually' good or not, it always makes you think.

(above) Susan Philipsz original location in Glasgow for the sound installation 'Lowlands' This year's winner of the Turner Prize

9 December 2010

If you missed the first Pow wow catch it again here!

If you missed catching Jon's studio during art weeks this year why not have a look at the following video:
You can watch the new film 'Pow wow' by Emma Holbrook featuring Jon England and Ted Milligan by clicking on thie following link:
If any other SAW members would like links to their videos and projects posted onto the SAW blog please get in touch by dropping an email to: We'd love to hear from you!

6 December 2010

Think outside the box!

This is the box.
So here's the box and we're inviting artists to submit their ideas for their creative projects that show 'outside of the box thinking'. So think, on the box, around the box, on top of the box, to the side of the box, underneath, next to, in front or behind the box, anywhere but in the box. Not that inside the box is such a bad place to be, if you're Rachel Whiteread for example, inside the box might be exactly where you want to be and that's fine. 'Out of the box' way of thinking is what artists often do anyway, and challenges the norm, surprises/shocks, thinks laterally and more.
We've established that most of the time artists are thinking outside of the box, coming up with innovative, imaginative and unconventional ideas. For art weeks 2011 (yes, we start planning them even now!) SAW are encouraging and supporting local artists to submit ideas for creative projects that may involve the community, be installation or performance based, be in unusual settings, have a different collaboration of artists working together etc. The list is endless and of course there is still the opportunity to take part in art weeks as normal with group shows and exhibitions.
So why not take up the challenge and see if you can think outside the box?
Please read the following information about this idea from the SAW web page:
Somerset Art Weeks 2011 will focus on group exhibitions, projects and events, and will be a celebration of the creative abilities of artists and their eagerness to expand their horizons and think "outside the box".The major difference for the 2011 event is that each entry will require at least four artists/makers to exhibit in one venue. We also encourage community groups, schools and non-profit making groups/organisations to take part. We welcome individuals and organisations who present a diverse range of media from pottery, painting and watercolour to new technology, installation and live arts.
Think Outside the Box...Somerset Art Weeks 2011 provides an opportunity for artists/makers to promote their work beyond the ‘Open Studio’ format. The event encourages SAW members to invite other artists from outside Somerset to create and showcase work, or show their own work in public places. These places will include village halls, skittle alleys, shop windows, public sites etc. Reduce rate is available for non-selling exhibition/project, such as site-specific installations, new media and interventions.
Somerset Art Weeks 2011 is an opportunity to showcase the Visual Arts in Somerset, whether it be four artists displaying work on a joint theme or project, or workshops and events: ‘Art is for Everyone’ will be the strap line.
If you would like to discuss with us about your project or seeking artists/venue, please contact Zoe Li, Art Weeks Coordinator on
For more information on art weeks 2011 and how to apply please click on this lovely link below:

2 December 2010

Art book of the month: November

In 2009 the contemporary art exhibition called ‘Triparks’ succeeded in offering an alternative way of perceiving the landscape of three National Parks and the people who live there. In the book of the same name new and returning viewers can be inspired by the work created from six artists working across three National Parks; Dartmoor, Exmoor and Northumberland.

Triparks’ saw six artists take up a residency in one of the three parks in which they researched and produced work in response to their experiences in the landscape. The work created as a result was diverse in style and thought provoking. In particular, the Exmoor artists who were hosted by project partners Somerset Art Works included, Harald Smykla’s maps of Exmoor which feature hand written annotations, references to poetry, drawings, marks and stains and Karen Guthrie's 'National dress' for Exmoor which was inspired by, designed and in-turn worn by local people creates a real sense of place and both make visually engaging works of art.

Overall the book, ‘Triparks’ acts a bit like an exhibition catalogue in the way the work of each of the six artists is documented through both colour images and a brief but pertinent written explanation by the artists themselves. With links to the artists' websites it is useful in providing an invitation for further enquiry. A good record of what was a fantastic exhibition that inspires its audience to rediscover England's National Parks.

Price: £14.99
ISBN: 978-0-9566114-0-6
Author: Aune Head Arts
Hardback: 37 pages
Available from: