Got up feeling as one generally does after an Art Trail launch party......... knowing that I was not the only one in E17 feeling like this didn't help....
First thing on the agenda was Vestry House Museum to put a cover on one of my suitcases. It was a suitcase full of all the inks, paints, pigments and brushes that I used before my recent metamorphosis into an installation artist. Apparently it was too risky to leave these materials accessible because the yoof of today may: a) use the materials to deface property and/or b) eat/drink the materials and potentially die.
This is a major shift in the two years I have been away ..... can it be true that the younger generation have now all become vandals or imbeciles and are no longer accompanied by responsible adults... ever? Anyway.... I sealed all those lovely tactile materials safely behind a piece of clear plastic.
It was good to be in the garden because there was a lot of nice feedback about the installation and about the Trail in general. Also people were very happy to donate items to the (now less) empty suitcase which I will write about at the end of the Trail.
At 2.00 the first walking tour got under way so I tagged along for some of it with a camera and a notebook. First up was Annalisa Lopez's lamppost installation Tales of a Sullen Keyboard. It is actually easy to overlook this because at first glance it just seems like a trashed keyboard leaning on a lamppost. However, look again and it isn't leaning but climbing... the separate keys have detached themselves and are making a break for it up the lamppost. For Annalisa the installation creates a dialogue between nature and technology and several of the crowd agreed. One woman liked the way that the technology was humanised and made more comforting to technophobes. The classic comment 'well it's not watercolours' was also noted as was the suggestion that the keyboard could be prosecuted for vandalising the Village lamppost.
Can dog owners be prosecuted for vandalising Village pavements? Evidence of this kind of vandalism was noted several times enroute. This caused particular irritation to park keeper and organiser of the 'Walk Yourself Fit' campaign, which is involved with the Trail for the first time this year. The dog owners in the park she keeps just wouldn't get away with it!
The next stop on the walk was Enigma by Owen Bullit and this just looked great. Two big sculptures, one made of shiny polished metal and the other made of wood with a third sculpture of an over sized bench sitting imposingly in a corner nearby. You don't expect to see something like this as you enter a large suburban garden with a beautifully mowed lawn! It takes a moment to adjust. You are suddenly not quite sure where you are anymore.
I asked somebody wearing very dark shades who did not want to be asked, what he thought about the sculpture. He replied 'It's close to a pub'. I avoided asking for opinions after that....
Next stop was Stephen Kenny's letterpress studio, a Two Pipe Problem. This was featured earlier in this blog but it was good to actually see the letterpress in situ. Stephen started this as a hobby but it is now becoming a full time job so it was interesting to see how the operation was set up in the house. Being a music junkie I was also delighted to see a large vinyl collection....
The group of people on the walk were a mix of E17ers and people from outside the borough. One woman had seen the Trail advertised in Time Out and had come all the way from Crystal Palace..... OK .... so Crystal Palace isn't really that far but Sarf'' London can seem like another planet if you are relying on weekend public transport.
The next stop was Jenny Dawes and Brian Daubney. They both work, or have worked with a variety of mediums so paintings, prints, photos and clay sculptures grab your attention as you walk through their house. However, it is only when you go right through the house and get to the garden that your jaw hits the floor. It is amazing what people can fit into a small back garden. In this case it is one large wooden studio in the middle, and another dedicated print studio at the end. A very nice mix of work both in the house and sitting in the studio itself along with Brian Daubney who was on hand to talk about the work.
A nice thing about the Trail is that you get to walk down streets you would never normally see and occasionally there will be a house that really stands out. There were a couple of neglected houses that were decayed or decaying in very visually interesting ways. By way of contrast we had the house of Danny Coope, another artist who featured on the blog before the Trail. He has assembled 2 montages of photographs either side of his front gate. The whole thing faces the road and looks pretty amazing.
At this stage of the walk I am starting to flag. The late night is catching up with me and all I can think about is Snickers bars. So the next two stops were difficult. I did have an interesting chat with a walker who was born in the UK but had grown up in the US. He has been living in E17 with his American wife and family for two years and this was the first walk they had done on the Trail. They said it was a great way to connect with the area but was also an opportunity to get an insight into the real lives of people.
Although there seemed to be a lot going at the Hornbeam Centre, it didn't quite gel for me. The cafe was too busy to really see the photos properly (unless you were sitting there over a leisurely coffee of course) and I wasn't really sure what was going on upstairs. That said I loved the red wool wrapped around the banisters, on the wall and over the window. Round the corner at Eklekticos in the FRP there were a couple of interesting things but I think there is lot more potential in both of these venues which has yet to be explored.
Pictorem always has lots to look at year round but at Art Trail time it usually showcases a handful or artists or projects. This year it is Veronica Lindsay Addy's huge 5 part painting that makes the most impact but I really liked the coloured, glittery collage faces exhibited from MENCAP.
That was it for me...,, the walk went on to at least two other venues but I headed back to Vestry House to pick up my bike and check that there had been no suitcase disasters. On the way I just popped in to say hello to Shirley Pountney. As usual she was showing a full and diverse range of work. There is a new series of bright and boldly physical landscapes, intricately textured and decorated handmade paper works, some sublime ink pieces and a whole new range of hand knitted scarves, shawls and a single unique throw. This was apparently so much trouble to make she's never going to do one again! Also as usual during the Art Trail, her little gallery was packed with people and she seemed to be selling pretty well too.
I actually saw loads of people walking around with maps today and according to Gary Heales at Vestry House, the museum received over 300 visitors which is a new record for Day One of the E17 Art Trail.