Alan Smith – Visiting Lecturer 24/10/13

Alan Smith is the Creative Director of ACA (Allenheads Contemporary Arts) an old school hall in the Northeast of England.  The organisation is an epicenter of arts and cultural activities and exhibitions in the village and surrounding area and welcomes creatives practicing in all medias to become involved in the project including students, writers, established artists and musicians (ACA, 2013).  Smith believes it is crucial to have other artists and people around to “feed” (Smith, 2013)  into their work to produce an all-inclusive, innovative environment.

Allenhead with a population of approximately 200 residents is quite a different and difficult place to work compared to New York where Smith was based for several years.  When Smith arrived in Allenheads approximately twenty years ago, he felt that there was nothing happening there initially.  He started to paint landscapes without reason but felt like he had to do something and thought that’s what he should be doing.  However, he disliked the paintings and in frustration threw them outside.  Over a period of time the paintings started to deteriorate – breaking down and covered inn mould and dirt.  This process seemed to be an epiphany to Smith as to demonstrated that there were things going on around him and it opened his eyes.  He started to consider the landscape of Allenhead with a new outlook – exploring and considering the environment around him.  In comparison to New York City the landscape was quite empty and open – almost “frightening” to a point (Smith, 2013).  This and changeable weather – particularly the extreme winters changed Smith’s perspective.

Allenhead, Image taken from:
Allenhead, Image taken from:

With this in mind, through ACA (developed 18yrs ago) Smith uses Allenhead’s environment as a source of education.  He organises “silent trips” for students whereby he asks them to leave behind any recording devices such as notepads, mobile phones and cameras and use only themselves as the “recording system” while walking around Allenhead’s countryside (Smith, 2013).  Following these trips, the group discusses what each of them has taken from it and an open and varied discussion takes place.

Another opportunity ACA gives to students is the possibility of gaining a placement at the ACAshop.  The site used to be the village shop and post office 5yrs previously.  As a well-established building that was already a central hub for the community, it created a new arts environment which encouraged residents to get involved with projects, attend exhibitions/workshops and join in creative discussions.

To further involve the community with ACA, artist Andrew Wilson asked residents to bring an item of importance to them to be displayed in the ACAshop as a way of making the community feel a sense of ownership in the project.  He also asked everyone for their top 10 songs which was also played during the exhibition.

Although ACA didn’t initially have a sufficient catchment for Arts Council funding, Smith and his peers grew the organisation by firstly inviting people they knew to exhibit.  Through word of mouth, more people got involved, audience numbers grew and people began to “sit up and notice” (Smith, 2013).

The organisation has become part of the community by building mutual respect and assisting wherever possible (i.e. the school hall was used for the village show when the village hall was unsuitable due to damaged flooring).

During Smith’s lecture it is clear he is interested in the future and the idea of not fully knowing or understanding everything he sees.  However, he is also interested in the past and notes that “things may change but we’re still doing the same thing…it’s just evolved technology” (Smith, 2013).  With this in mind one of ACA’s projects This is the Future focuses on these ideas.  During this project artists including David Lisser were invited to produce work that demonstrated their ideas about what the future held.  Lisser considered whether the village of Allenhead would be seen as the “remote” village it once was, cut off from technology and self-reliant (ACA, 2013).  In terms of being self-reliant, Lisser produced a food-type with what some may think of as an unusual ingredient – namely midges.  Midges are quite prevalent in the wild open environment of Allenhead and by using them as an ingredient to produce burgers, Lisser was utilizing them as a food-group – even developing a “Midgecatcher’s House” which was also on display.

David Lisser, Midge Burger, image available from:
David Lisser, Midge Burger, image available from:
David Lisser, Midgecatcher's House. Image available from:
David Lisser, Midgecatcher’s House. Image available from:

Another artist involved with ACA was Arturas Raila in 2007.  The work which included inviting Lithuanian pagans to Allenhead to carry out a pagan ritual of mapping out “geo-energy flows” (Hodnett, 2007) caused some controversy with the residents.  However, Smith was interested in the spirituality and positive and negative energies the pagans believed in.

With regard to spirituality, Smith is also interested in the beliefs of the Zen Buddhist monks.  Whereas scientists continually look to the future, the monks consider everything around them and believe that “it is equally important to look both ways” (Smith, 2013).

Smith also took part in the Migrating Arts Academy where he and artist Rosalind McLachlan explored the theme “5% as far as the eye can see” in 2013 (, 2013). This is based on the theory that the human is only capable of seeing 5%, whereas 27% is dark matter and 68% is dark energy (Smith, 2013).  Smith notes that he “enjoys” not understanding everything that he is seeing, however just because he can’t see something, does not mean it does not exist.

On this note Smith ended with the question:

Can creativity and imagination help us make sense of the inexplicable?


References:, (2014). Lisser. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Apr. 2014]

Hodnett, M. (2007). News & Star | Pagan ceremony launches art show. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Apr. 2014]., (2013). Migrating Art Academies » Blog Archive » Review: 5% as far as the eye can see. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Apr. 2014].

Simon Bayliss, Artist & Curator Lecture, 17/10/13

Simon Bayliss is an artist and curator based in the South West of England.  He is primarily a painter but also writes for art journals including Nom de Strip and works as an assistant at artist-led studio and gallery space Karst in Plymouth.

Bayliss’ will debut his first exhibition as curator at Karst on 31 October 2013, along with his friend and fellow artist Lucy Stein.

The idea for the exhibition called SS Blue Jacket, came about through personal discussions between the pair about what they felt the South West meant to them and was synonymous with – namely the sea.  They were also interested in the idea of mimesis – the representation of the real world in art and literature.

With this in mind, Bayliss came across the story of SS Blue Jacket in the book Shipwreck, John Fowles, 1974 – a ship which crashed into Longships Lighthouse in 1898.  Bayliss and Stein decided to use the story as a sexual metaphor i.e. the helmsman being overcome with sexual lust, steered her (the ship) toward the phallus (the lighthouse).

Image of SS Blue Jacket Shipwreck. Available from:
Image of SS Blue Jacket Shipwreck. Available from:

Bayliss and Stein decided that painting would be the main part of the show and wanted to use work which alluded to this animistic quality.  As well as using some of their own pieces, Bayliss and Stein also wanted to exhibit work by Beryl Cook, Peter Lanyon and Robert Lenkiewicz, as well as Shana Moulton, Edward Stein, Merlin James and Simon Fujiwara.

SS Blue Jacket, Karst, 2013 Promotional Image.  Available from:
SS Blue Jacket, Karst, 2013 Promotional Image. Available from:

Bayliss explained that these artists are all related to the South West and particularly with Cook, Lanyon and Lenkiewicz were/are considered rebellious outsiders who pushed traditional artistic boundaries in their work.  All the pieces included in the exhibition have or could be interpreted as having sexual overtones, suggest ideas about self-identity and pertain to the South West.

Although, Bayliss and Stein had some reservations about curating an exhibition which would also include their work, they decided to break with traditions.  This raised some questions during the lecture with regard to self-promotion and publicity – particularly as artists such as Cook, Lanyon and Lenkiewicz are all well-known, ‘big-names’ in the South West and exhibiting with these artists could potentially raise the profile of Bayliss and Stein.  Furthermore, are Bayliss and Stein presenting themselves in the same league (so to speak) as these artists?  Is this kind of self-promotion a negative thing or could it be considered a little narcissistic?  And why not use other local emerging artists, much like themselves?

Simon Bayliss, Wreck, 2012, oil and acrylic on canvas. Available from:
Simon Bayliss, Wreck, 2012, oil and acrylic on canvas. Available from:

These questions were not clearly answered, but perhaps there was some truth in the accusations thrown toward Bayliss, who at times seemed a little uncomfortable.

During the lecture Bayliss also described the curating process and highlighted the positives and negatives which came out of curating and project-managing the show.

The problems Bayliss encountered included:

  • not being able to exhibit certain pieces because of security, insurance, environmental conditions, refusal, not being able to locate the work and artists dropping out.
  • no funding received from the Arts Council – after applying twice.

However, there were many positives, including :

  • the catalogue was designed by Bayliss’ friend and renowned graphic artist Rupert Gower-Cliff who did not charge a fee;
  • Nom de Strip advertised the exhibition for free;
  • Plymouth University is advertising the exhibition for free during the International Book Festival;
  • the Lenkiewicz Foundation agreed to lend another piece of work because the initial requested piece could not be found by the lender;
  • Lucy Stein’s gallery Gimpel Fil, London agreed to lend a Lanyon painting;
  • The Elephant Trust gave funding for Stein’s film piece;
  • Karst and the Museum (who have lent Cook painting) have been very helpful and supportive during the whole process.

Bayliss also discussed how he wanted the exhibition to be accessible to a wider audience and not just persons who are already involved in the arts.  As well as advertising in Nom de Strip, Bayliss has also placed an advert in the Western Morning News under the Arts and Antiques section – hoping to reach a larger audience.

However,  I personally feel that placing the advert in a specific arts section in the paper, is still limiting your audience.

Having said this, I think that using artists such as Cook and Lenkiewicz is a clever way of generating publicity within the South West community because these artists are already well-known – regardless of whether you are interested in the arts or not. I feel that by presenting Cook and Lenkiewicz’s work with lesser known artists, an audience who may have been initially attracted to seeing Cook or Lenkiewicz’s work only, would then be introduced to the work of other artists – possibly of whom they would not have considered or heard of previously – and this can only be a good thing.

Overall, Bayliss’ lecture was an excellent, educational and honest lecture about how he found the curating process, which left the audience with much to consider in terms of the artist as curator.

Christopher Green, Artist Lecture 10/10/2013

Christopher Green is an young contemporary artist from the Peckham area of London, who originally studied Graphic Design.

During his lecture, Green explained that he was always interested in “making” during his studies, but did not start exhibiting as such, until 2006/2007 when he moved into a run down house at 78 Lyndhurst Way, Peckham.  He shared the house with graduate friends – including fine artists and film-makers and together, they decided to make use of the dilapidated house (previously occupied by squatters) and transform it into a gallery space.

Image of interior of 78 Lyndhurst Way, Peckham: Available from:

Over the course of 11 months, Green and his friends held 9 exhibitions in the Peckham house – open to friends, colleagues and anyone who was inquisitive about the space (the front garden area also displayed work and was therefore visible from the roadside).

Image of exterior of 78 Lyndhurst Way, Peckham. Available from:

During these exhibitions, Green came into contact with curator and gallerist Hannah Barry and was asked to be represented at her gallery in 2010 for his first solo exhibition Together Afar, 2010.

Image of Christopher Green’s solo exhibition Together Afar, 2010. Available at:

Green has also exhibited at Project Space 11 in Plymouth, Brussels Art Fair and Shoot the Lobster, New York, as well as having an artist residency in Tuscany.

During his lecture, it was difficult to pinpoint Green’s reason for making artwork – stating that he had “no specific intent when making paintings”.  It became apparent that he was extremely interested in the formal elements and process of colour development, layering and texture – experimenting with materials including gesso, acrylic, oil, charcoal and even beer.  Therefore, are his works purely expressive as opposed to having a researched concept?

Green mentioned that John Armleder was an inspiration to him and after basic, superficial research the influence is fairly obvious.  Green explained that he didn’t like artist statements and it was clear from his answers, that he had no “specific intent” or agenda.  Similarly “Armleder’s work  has always resisted the manifesto, any form of theoretical attitudes or indeed, a social or political agenda” (Simon Lee Gallery, 2003).

Furthermore, Green briefly mentioned that he designed some of the furniture placed in his exhibitions (including the bench in the Together Afar, 2003 image).  Again Armledder is also known for juxtaposing his paintings “with furniture or design objects” (Simon Lee Gallery, 2003).

Another inspiration for Green is Blinky Palermo an artist who insisted “on the expressive possibilities of painting” and known for “his reliance on poetic titles” (Tate, 2013).  Similarly, although Green has no specific logic when first starting a painting, his titles are often based on subjective stories i.e. reasons for acquiring the paint used in a specific painting and/or dedicating it to the paint’s contributor.  These titles could be described as poetic gestures and although the audience may not be able to understand the connection between the painting and the title, Green admits that the title acts more like “mystery, to draw the viewer in”.


Simon Lee Gallery (2003) John M Armledder [online] Simon Lee Gallery: London. Available from:

Tate (2013) Blinky Palermo. Tate: London. Available from:

Kim Wide, Visiting Lecturer 03/10/2013

Kim Wide is a curator, with a strong interest in socially engaged projects and access for all to the arts.

She is currently working with the Plymouth communities of Efford and Barne Barton in their regeneration.

Originally from Canada, Wide worked as the Museum Manager at the York Museum at City of Toronto and the Assistant Curator at the Government of Ontario.

Following her relocation to the UK in 2003, she found that her Canadian studies of Museum and Gallery Management and Curatorship were not recognized and began to seek out community/audience arts based projects.

Wide has worked at ArtSway, New Forest which is an arts centre used to discuss and engage with contemporary art and Kaleido Arts, an arts organisation in the South West, with 85% of their Board made up of deaf and disabled people.

In 2009, following Plymouth City Council’s go ahead in 2006, for the regeneration of Efford Take a Part was developed in partnership with the Heart of Efford Community Partnership, Plymouth City Council and Plymouth Arts Centre.  Take a Part is a public realm arts project, encouraging the community to come together using creativity to support the regeneration of Efford.

Initially, Wide found that working on the Take a Part project was challenging because the community were perhaps a little hesitant and doubtful about trying something new.  She recognised that the people had to be eased in to these ‘new’ ideas slowly, so that she could gain their trust and hope they would become open to more diverse projects and experiences in the future.

The arts activities started as quite simple projects including cob-sculpting and stone carving but gradually moved into performance art – including the community arts group Crazy Glue.  This group has been involved in numerous projects including Grow Efford, a project that was created by environmental artist Anne-Marie Culhane and involved collecting local fruits in the Efford area to make jams and chutneys.  This led on to the development of the Shed on Wheels – an interactive hub of activity for people to share their creativity.

Image of Take a Part Efford members, participating in group projects, 2013. Available from:

Crazy Glue also presented a plain-speaking guided tour of the British Art Show 7 to other communities in Plymouth.

Another artist involved with Take a Part is sculptor Peter Randall Page who created a sculpture set into an old dry stone wall in Ham Woods in 2012 entitled In Praise of Trees.  After selecting Page, Efford community members visited Page’s studio to gain a better understanding of his work.  This again was an interactive, engagement project between artist and community – helping to give a sense of ownership.

Take a Part is an ongoing, long-term project in the regeneration of Efford and now the Barne Barton area is receiving the same treatment under the name BBROOTS commissioned by Barne Barton Partnership, Plymouth City Council and Take a Part.

BBROOTS is in the early stages of development, but projects discussing Barne Barton’s history and relationship to the River Tamar and waterfront have already begun.  This has allowed the community – young and old to engage with artists and also engage with parts of Barne Barton they may have not been able to access previously.