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20 June 2011

In advance of art weeks 2011:

Whilst art weeks is only a mere two weeks in the running, this year from September 17th until October 7th (plug plug) if only the same could be said for the amount of time it takes to put it all together! Whilst last years art weeks had barely finished planning for art weeks 2011 had begun, and with around 450 artists taking part this year; most needing to find venues, submit photos, devise and curate a show and somewhere along the way actually maybe, perhaps make some work to exhibit; then its easy to see where the time goes! In preparation for art weeks this year myself and a group of four other artists received a small bursary to create a project/exhibition. The professional development opportunity that this bursary was a part of began in February this year and during the last four months, Simon Lee Dicker, Lucia Harley, Jon England, Hannah Bishop and myself have been meeting to discuss our projects and give each other feedback. This isn't the first post on the blog where I have mentioned this, so forgive me if some of it is repeated from before. Anyway, last Friday the 17th was the turn of visiting Jon England who's project researching with the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton is based and also visiting Simon Lee Dicker's new studio/exhibition spaces at The Lanes and recently renovated Old School House at West Coker. All in a days work!
After flying in with Jon and Hannah we arrived at the spectacularly windy car park at the Fleet Air Arm Museum where we met up with Simon, Lucia, Kate Noble and Carol Carey and Zoe Li from SAW for a whistle stop tour of the museum and look at the restoration hanger in which Jon's project particularly is focusing on. I know from my own experience working with the Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton that the curators/museum staff are incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic people about their subject and so meeting David Morris, curator of aircraft at the museum was no exception. In case you are in need of a little context here allow me to explain; Jon England has previously used World War 2 related research/photos/memories/artifacts to create both his own work and curate it sometimes in installations. Last year's art weeks featured work alongside Edward Milligan whose work included portraits and drawings from when Ted was a prisoner of war. You can begin to see then why some of the planes at Fleet would hold particular interest and resonance for Jon to use in his own work. In particular, the main focus in Jon's project is the Grumman Martlet which is currently being painstakingly (and believe me, it really is a huge task!) restored to its original war time paint scheme. This is really a project of forensic archaeology and the ethics of restoration. I'll explain, here we have in Fleet the last complete Grumman Martlet in the world that has in its lifetime been repainted either for a museum or during its wartime use. Therefore all of its history, its wear and tear and signs of human use have been covered up by layers of paint over the years. What the restoration team at Fleet are doing is to remove the layers of paint very gradually and very carefully (and it takes ages and ages) to reveal the original body of the plane. Along the way this tells the team a lot about the use of the plane, where it had been and all the patina and use it had that make the plane, not just a show piece in a museum but an actual working account of the people that flew it, mechanics that worked on it and more. A fascinating project, because I can see similar kinds of restoration being undertaken (but on a much much smaller scale) on the tools I've been looking at with the museum in Taunton. Anyway, Jon has been recording and researching this project in great detail with the crew at Fleet and is using his findings to generate and inspire his own work that relates to the plane and the idea of forensics. Some of his work in progress mimics the process that the team are using of removing layers of paint of the plane which Jon is combining with his own style of drawing using representational imagery connected with the history of the plane. *See image below for more details*

Moving on and the seven of us now embarked down the road to West Coker where we rendezvoused at the Lanes Hotel and the site of 'Under a new sun' exhibition from Simon Lee Dicker. The exhibition 'Under a new sun' will feature the work of eight artists some of whom have been invited/challenged by Simon to exhibit and create new work in ways they haven't worked before...I appreciate this concept is best explained with an example, so I'll provide: Michael Fairfax is part of this show and is best known for his stone/wood sculptures. As a part of 'Under a new sun' Michael has been invited to show something different and is going to exhibit some sound sculptures/works as a result. Not everyone has to do something 'different' and from the list of artists taking part already it looks as though there is a great mix of painting, installation, video, light and sound pieces! Artists include: Luke Paramore, Lucia Harley, Michael Fairfax, Megan Calver, Angela Charles, Simon Hitchens, Tascha Elena Stevens and of course Simon Lee Dicker himself. You see this project is slightly different because it sees Simon in a more curatorial role which is interesting because he's also an artist and how the two roles might work together differently to that of someone primarily from a curating background. However putting eight great artists in one venue like the Lanes is not all, no. Simon has completely renovated and transformed a near by School House (literally opposite the Lanes Hotel) into a beautiful, contemporary gallery and studio space. You should definitely check it out on his blog on the link below because its a fab space! So the resulting show is going to be across the two venues and won't be as obvious as 'hanging another painting where anther painting once was' to quote Simon's own words, but aims to come up with more creative ways in which art/artists can engage with the spaces and the people that use them in new ways. I really look forward to seeing what happens. *See image below for more details*

Some crispy noodles with chicken and a pint of cider later and we're ready to call it a day: with myself and Hannah left on the list of people to visit, next time the pressure will really be on! Like I said this is really a taste of the things to come and have been used to get us together as a group of artists talking through and testing our ideas. Actually, I've found that its been very good to talk. Speak to you soon!

Jon England exhibiting at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton

Luke Paramore exhibiting as part of 'Under a new sun' at The Old School room, West Coker, Somerset

Lucia Harley exhibiting as a part of 'Under a new sun'

So in advance of art weeks which run from 17th September - 2nd October you can check out details of the exhibitions created by the artists mentioned in this post now: -Venue 1 -Venue 11 -Venue 100

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