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....
I completed this work for an exhibition in Paris which was of course, cancelled because of the Covid19 crisis. I had begun making it just before Christmas and finished it in early March. It is a reflection on where we find ourselves as human beings living in a climate change emergency. Even though I knew from friends how Covid19 was affecting life in China I had not taken on board that it would hit Europe in the same way, largely because of remembering SARS and subsequent viruses. I was a fool - like so many - I should have been expecting the worst. In this artwork where a rising sea teams with life, where cities lie drowned in their depths, my imagination was more in touch with the realities we face than my conscious self.
'Venice' central panel of five for 'Port' an artwork which explores the intertwined narrative of East/West trade and exchange from historical, philosophical and personal perspectives.
102 x102cm canvas, acrylic, collage, gold leaf
The online catalogue for my upcoming exhibition features the curatorial essay written by Emily de Wolfe Pettit.
I've been spending a lot of time on my new Oculus Quest using Tiltbrush to create 'sketches' for the artwork I'll present at Tate Exchange Liverpool. It's massively interesting - and often frustrating and I am really enjoying the process. My assistant Terri Broughton and I have been troubleshooting and sharing the headset (it gives you quite a headache if you wear it for more than an hour and a half.... So I'll start posting these sketches as they're completed. The idea of using all kinds of vessels, not just maritime ones is a reminder that human beings use many means of travelling and maybe in the future we will need to become migrants in space. On a day when one unfortunate would be migrant fell out of a plane and landed in garden in Clapham, it feels appropriate to consider that with changing circumstances we might all be driven to being stowaways....
Only when I had finished this work did I fully understand what I wanted to express. My father took me fishing regularly as a child and these were the times when our relationship was least complicated and he was kinder to me. We would spend hours on the rocks looking at the sea and trying to spot when a school of fish would break the water’s surface. He is now in a state of advanced dementia, he is gone from this world and from me…. From a wider perspective, I am contemplating the complex journey of a human life as I sit in my inland sea in a state of flux.
The process of making this artwork, which incorporates 3D scanning & printing and internal lighting, was a crucial to exploring meaning in a subliminal and profound way.
I started work on Age of Exploration: Spice about 6 years ago when I found this wooden case dumped on a nearby street. Initially I laid out a trail of cloves on the floor of the case and then ground to a creative halt. Last November I opened the case again with a clear idea of what I wanted to do with it, complicated.... It kept me awake nights but the complexity helped me to get through a hard time and it has been one of the most enjoyable pieces I have ever made. My son filmed it for me - it's always difficult to capture a 3D piece in a 2D photo, what the film doesn't capture is the fragrance of the spice landscape, it is in fact an olfactory experience as well as a narrative of exploration. What started me thinking about making this piece in the first place was a visit to the Musée Nationale de la Marine in Paris about 12 years ago; I saw a wonderful model ship made entirely out of cloves and of course, this was made by a sailor who had nothing else to occupy him during the many months at sea. He made the work about what was close to hand, a hold full of cloves and the ship he was sailing in and he created something magical.
Fion Gunn is a London based visual artist with an international multi-media practice.