|photo: Kate Aries|
This show is the product of a focussed period of work. Everything was made specifically for this site to work within the physical parameters of the phone boxes but also using the windows to engage people passing by.
|Photo: Kate Aries|
I often find it difficult talking and writing about my work - and I feel that my works should be able to speak for themselves. I am interested in the idea that the viewer is a participant in the creation of meaning. The work should be able to stand alone without me there to explain it. Explanation limits the power of the work to create new meanings.
|Photo: Kate Aries|
Unusually for me, this collection of work is clearly subject-specific in its content. It addresses a particular area of public policy.
Now I don't claim to be a political artist. I am not necessarily in favour of artists trying to promote a specific 'message' because that can be very problematic and potentially fatal for the work. But the very interesting artist Susan Hiller has said - " my work isn't about specific political or ethical positions, yet like all art it is the result of them and allows or even provokes the formation of new positions". I think it is interesting to consider how all art is the result of political and ethical positions. One way to consider any art work is to ask whether it supports the status quo - the current hegemonic settlement - or if it is agitating in some way for new perspectives.
The work addresses the subject of primary education policy. I wouldn't claim to be an expert on this subject or to have any more knowledge than anyone who reads the newspapers or takes a general interest in public life. But it is something I am concerned about. I think the signs are that we as a society are failing our children by imposing on them a curriculum that is skewed towards what is measurable. This in turn feeds a rigid and highly stressful testing and assessment regime. In a survey of primary school leaders earlier this year, 80% of them reported increased levels of stress, anxiety and mental health issues among their pupils. They attributed this increase to the national testing regime.
I am equally frustrated that the main opposition parties are offering no alternative and that their education policies seem to have been reduced to throwing free food - often inedible food - at children rather than addressing the fundamental problems with the curriculum, inspection and assessment which have been raised by the teachers unions.
The concept of Imagined Futures comes from the simple premise that everything in our environment has its origin in somebody's imagination (particularly so for the theists among us, but for everyone else this is true at least of our human-made environment). Imagination is the genesis of every progressive idea, invention, design and object we encounter. As such the present world is the product of multiple imaginations and the same is true of the potential future world. My point is that if education policy restricts and withers the scope of children's imaginative play, that in turn restricts and withers the kind of world those children will create, produce or endure - and their role in it.
|Photo: Kate Aries|
There is a stack of free woodcut prints in the show. It's a limited edition of 400 prints and I hope visitors will all take one. The print incorporates the text 'Imagine Better', which I hope carries something of the ideas in a way that is open to different interpretations - it might suggest that imagination can be improved with practice; and that we might imagine a better way of doing things.
Susan Hiller suggests that as artists we are involved in the social construction of the visible world. It is what we do. And we are able as artists, in our small way, to change how things are seen or to provoke new thinking. If there is a goal in making this body of work then I think that is it - and what I have produced probably misses it. There is a kind of knowing tension at play between contributing to a public debate and the pathetic impotence of shouting inside two phone boxes. But whether it's impotent or not, I am really grateful for the opportunity to say something.
I am grateful to Liz Driver, my wife and partner in the production of the four banners in the show. She did all the practical bits of the banners that involve skill with a sewing machine and also helped me shape my ideas through discussion of the content of the show.
K6 Gallery is open all day every day and my show runs until 1 December 2017. The curators are Alex Batten and Eloise Rose and they are both a joy to work with. All the prints are limited edition woodcuts on Somerset Satin. They are for sale on the K6 website while stocks last: http://k6gallery.com/shop
|After the p.v. launch on 1 September.|