A Tale of Two Cities 2022, canvas, acrylic, collage, gold & silver leaf, 190 x 300cm
Since showing work at Tate Liverpool in 2019 and having some time to explore the city, meet people and make connections here, I have thought a lot about the similarities and differences, the shared history and mirrored perspectives of Dublin and Liverpool. In these panels, the cities, their rivers, architecture, cultures and histories face each other.
There is a porous boundary and stories that need telling.
Nature however, moves to and fro, birds, fish and seals fly, swim and breed between the coastlines, these migrations do not ask permission and do not discriminate it is the ebb and flow of a shared ecology. The mix of peoples, communities and cultures born of empire and exploitation is now the lifeblood of these cities and their hinterlands.
As I finalise work for my solo show Arrivals/Departures at the VG&M which will open on 30 July and end on 23 December, I reflect on the many changes in our world since the exhibition was arranged. This has been happening on a global level but also on an intensely personal one and we need to be kind to one another above all else. I am blessed to be working with a great team of people and an institution that has an inclusive an visionary approach. Here is 'Lifeboat' one of the seven 3D artworks which was scanned by the amazing Photogrammetry Team there. These 3D scans are being transformed into AR pop ups which will be accessible at locations all around the city.
Lifeboat, 2022 mixed media, 80x78x66cm
Photo credit Glyn Jones
Mary Wollstonecraft wrote many things and her life’s work was focused on the importance of equality and inclusion. She wrote incisively about the French Revolution and her daughter Mary Shelley’s work ‘Frankenstein’ can be read as a metaphor for revolution and its consequences.
In 2020-21 I created three short films and a painting/collage which pay tribute to her impact on my life as an artist:
My dreams are all my own, We Breathe, Get Wisdom, viewable at www.youtube.com/c/FionGunn
I hope my artworks will encourage people to read Mary Wollstonecraft - she died in 1797 and yet her words ring so true today.
Everybody's Life - Fion Gunn, 2022 , acrylic, handmade papers, collage, 76x56cm
This artwork is a homage to New York artist Louise Nevelson. I discovered her work during my foundation year at art college and it had a lasting impact on me. Her process of using scrap materials and creating monumental architectural artworks has been a huge inspiration. I too work with recycled materials, the rejected flotsam and jetsam of others, the objects discarded and neglected which carry with them a complicated history, narratives that are not necessarily obvious. This painting collage features some aspects which are evident in Nevelson's work and integrates many of my own - there's a reference to the house I grew up in, furniture which has been a personal obsession and instead of the monolithic sculptural solidity of her work, mine is full of holes and windows!
The title for this work is taken from Nevelson’s own words ‘My life is like everybody's life' it is a feeling which I share. An artist's life is not a romantic one, we have the same challenges as everyone else in the world and disappointment is always snapping at our heels. Understanding this can help to make us better artists, help us to feel less like outsiders and enable us to welcome viewers into our world in a generous way.
My own connections with Alexandria are nebulous - mainly a deep love inspired by Constantin Cavafi's poetry., Cavafi who was of Greek origin spent his life in Alexandria and was an inspiration to poets like Auden and many others. His voice is so unique that it survives a range of translations and still manages to sound like him.
While researching materials for the Alexandrian panel of 'To Reach a Port' I found this article interesting:
Thinking about the 'Passover' today and all that this has meant in the history of a people forever associated with diaspora and displacement. Today in our COVID aware world many more people are coming to grips with the impact of separation and isolation. The biblical Passover in contemporary terms can be interpreted as taking precautionary measures against a plague, families and communities supporting each other in difficult times and an intense awareness of imminent danger. We would do well to learn these lessons.
It's been quite a year since Odyssey: Explorations in Liverpool and some members of the Odyssey Group have joined me online to work on an ambitious new digital project, one which has taken us out of our individual comfort zones to explore a whole new range of possibilities.
For this first stage of this project I'm working with Terri Broughton, Chen Mei-Tsen, Maureen Kendal, Nazia Parvez, Sarah Rubidge
In Boundless – Worlds in Flux we the collaborating artists invite participants to share their passion for our planet and its inhabitants both human and non-human.
We will invite viewers to navigate their way through the interrelated and interconnected artists’ worlds where they can access a range of experiences, stories, video clips, soundscapes. These hotspots for interactivity can be accessed easily and in any sequence, providing our visitors with an open-ended experience, one which can be revisited and always provide new insights. In some ways the experience will be similar to people dropping into a museum or public gallery and focus on different collections or exhibitions depending on what appeals to them and how much time they can spend there.
We are also creating a shared environment called Your Space where visitors can join the creative conversation and leave their own comments, video clips, photos, music/sound clips, poetry etc. This will be a generative space growing in size and complexity over time.
I will post further updates about the project in the coming weeks and months.
This is a bit of a late posting but only because I've been so busy!!! Between 4 - 18 May I held a micro exhibition in my front garden showing one artwork every day (until the last day when I showed 3). As a result of all the positive responses I initiated a neighborhood arts with other artists I met during my micro show.
Youtube link- One Day at a Time -micro exhibition https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=030X2yQI--k
We live in a time where we can change things if we act and if we commit. How much longer do people of colour have to put up with being treated as lesser? treated as alien? When I was a young person and came to London to live for the first time in 1981, my Irish accent marked me out as different - I was often treated with extreme rudeness, outrageous condescension and racism, but hey - I am white and well educated! I got angry, confrontational and called it out. Back then we Irish were the 'Muslims' of UK social landscape, politically dangerous bombers and troublemakers.
I was working as a live-in cleaner at The Kingsley Hotel, Bloomsbury when the Brixton riots were ignited. Many of the chamber maids and kitchen staff lived in Brixton and as there were no trains, no buses, they had to walk along the underground train tracks to get to work. One assistant chef was sacked because he couldn't walk fast enough and arrived at work late. The management prioritised the interests of reception staff (all white) and I and my Irish friend with whom I shared a room escaped difficulty because we were a. on site and b. the head of housekeeping was also Irish. It was very obvious that management regarded their black staff as expendable and replaceable. We did protest but were not exactly in a position of power...... I wish I could say that this attitude is gone - but it's not!. My children went to very diverse state schools in Lambeth- thank goodness! - they grew up knowing that their peers black, white, pink, brown or yellow are people just like them, no better and no worse. As artists we are always a bit on the fringe of society and it is our duty to call out racism, sexism and any other divisive isms in a way that engages, challenges and embraces our diverse communities. I must stop now or I'll start talking about revolution....
Fion Gunn is a London based visual artist with an international multi-media practice.