Sep 18, 2011

Films by contemporary artists on the BBC Big Screen Walthamstow

Those working on the Information Hub during the 2011 E17 Art Trail were in a prime spot to see the selection of films inspired by the E17 environment being shown on the BBC Big Screen Walthamstow.

The films are from The Projection collection and feature a personal response to the challenges, struggles and concerns faced by creative people. How do we set our goals, what counts as achievement, how do we strive for excellence? Through diverse media and techniques, these films reveal the universal theme of ambition and a common concern of trying to do one's best.

Fiona McGregor made her film “Walthamstow Marsh” (above), especially for the Big Screen, “as I was determined that there should be something green on it for once. Actually seeing it there was a highlight of my trail.”

The Projection is a BBC Big Screens and E17 Art Trail partner organisation, which supports the development of artists’ film and video through the collection, archival, exhibition and distribution of works in lens-based media and allied practices. Based in London, it holds an extensive database of emergent artists from around the world. Bill Howard, of The Projection, must be acknowledged and lauded for liasing with the BBC to give the artists access to the screen during the trail.

In case you missed seeing it on the Big Screen, here's another film by Fiona McGregor, entitled Books of Desire.

Sep 15, 2011

The end of this year's Art Trail...

The Rose and Crown closes in an hour and when the clock strikes midnight tonight the 2011 E17 Art Trail will be over. However, if you would like to send in a review, comment, image or contribution I would be delighted to put it up on this blog so please email it to There's a search box on the bottom right hand side of the page so do look for exhibitions you've seen and click on "comments" to add your views.

I have really enjoyed curating this blog. It's been amazing to see so many exhibitions and events in E17 and to be able to talk to the artists. A few highlights that spring to mind are listed below, in no particular order. Click on the links to find out more.
Unfortunately I didn't make it to Fabien Ho's WOOF! or Ceramic Works by Amanda Doidge but I loved reading Esther, Leo and Abigail's reviews.

Another thing that's made curating the blog such a pleasure is having great contributors. I would like to thank all the artists and designers who sent in images and interviews and told me about their work when I was out on the Trail, especially Valerie Grove, who started this blog. She has been wonderfully helpful and even lent me her bike, which meant I could go on Mat Schmidt's ace bike tour! Finally, a massive THANK YOU to contributors Abigail, Esther Freeman (Creative Director of, the home of sustainable and ethical fashion), Duncan Holmes, (who has his own lively London blog:, Big Chief E-spy, E17 Designers ( and E17 Art House ( 

Hope to see you on the Trail next year!
Painting by Ruth Lucam

The final instalment of Abigail's 2011 Art Trail Diary

It is such a shame that the E17 Art Trail has come to an end, but we saw so much last weekend that my feet probably wouldn’t have been able to walk much further anyway! I can’t list everything that we saw as there was so much! But here are some of my highlights.

Reciprocity: This was on at my school and was work by staff and students. I know some of the girls whose work was shown and it was really good! I think that it’s a shame that the paintings were only shown in the art trail for four hours as not many people will have been able to see it.
Tears of Blood: These were really unusual, pictures of huge cats in gorgeous landscapes with blood tears running down their faces. I loved them!

Kitty Brown: Kitty had tweeted my mum and said that she had cake at her exhibition, so we made sure we went and saw her photos which were really good. I liked the way that she had made things that should be ugly look beautiful.
Crochet & Knitting Inspirations: We almost missed this! I am so glad we didn’t, Ingrid and Janina have made some beautiful things. My mum bought a bracelet and we are going to meet up with them to make me a little skirt as everything was too big for me. They had hairclips and tops, dresses and even Christmas decorations!

WOOF!: I had been looking forward to seeing this for ages. Fabien’s pictures were brilliant – some of the expressions on the dog’s faces were really funny. And some of the owner’s expressions were funny too! Even better, his dog, Toastie, is so cute, and I got to play with her.
Ceramics by Steve, Paintings by Emma: I loved all of Steve’s pots and vases – and my mum bought one of them too. He also had some beautiful photos up which I wasn’t expecting to see. Lots of beautiful landscapes from deserts and other far-away places. Emma’s paintings were great because I am really excited about the Olympics being in London next year. She had put together a paper on what all the different rings are supposed to mean, and this was also included in her paintings. I hadn’t realised that they were meant to mean anything, so this was really clever.
A People’s History of The EMD / Granada Cinema: We went to see this in Daisy’s CafĂ©. It was very interesting to hear everyone’s stories about how beautiful the cinema used to be and hear their memories. There were some photos that made me wish that I had been able to see the cinema ‘in the old days’. It has made me realise just how important it is that we get our cinema back.

Taking Part by Image17: We went along to Chestnuts House when Mark Burton was showing people around. He told us more about all the photos which made them all seem so much more interesting. I loved the handball pictures and the ones of the table tennis.

Paekakariki Press: I have no idea how to pronounce this, but it was very interesting. The letter printing workshop is just behind my house and I never knew it was there! The man showing us was very friendly and even printed my name for me. It is amazing to think that everything used to have to be printed like this – it must have taken hours to print anything at all!

There is so much that we saw in so many different places – I got to see a whole lot of Walthamstow that I have never seen before. I am really looking forward to next year’s now and a chance to see some of the artists that we didn’t manage to get around this time.

I hope I might have a chance to blog again then too!

You can read Abigail's other posts here.

Sep 11, 2011

Man Machine

In the window of Valerie Grove’s house sits a life-size skeleton with perfect posture, "typing" at a laptop computer. Don’t be alarmed if you catch a glimpse of him: he is one of the stars of her installation, “Man Machine”, which occupies the entire front room of her house. Through paintings, sabotaged posters, text and an interactive wall, this disturbing installation brings to light the potential negative effects of technology on the individual, both physical and mental. These effects are largely absent from discussion of technology, as it increasingly becomes a seemingly indispensable part of contemporary life. 

There is a narrative to "Man Machine". Famous artworks in rich jewel colours have been adapted to celebrate technology and the thrill of acquiring the latest gadget. Velazquez’s Rokeby Venus reads the New York Times on her iPad and even the baby Jesus has a Blackberry smartphone. Paintings of philosophers with globes, quills and laptops, show how time has speeded up. Developments that affect the way we think used to take years. Now each piece of new technology comes hot on the heels of the last, leaving no time to step back and assess the effects of these changes.

A note of negativity creeps in with Picasso's Absinthe drinker, sitting in a bar and looking at her laptop. Like many people who spend the whole day at work staring at a computer screen, she has escaped to the pub only to log onto the wireless internet connection. Colours get cooler and more melancholy. Valerie's painting of harsh, cold blues, silvers and blacks refers to the limited spectrum of colours that laptops come in. The disturbing effect of this technology on the body is clear the painting of a mishapen back, in raw pinks and reds, distorted by injuries relating to laptop use. The dark painting above the computer evokes the loneliness and sadness that working with only a computer for company and a body that has been damaged by a machine can cause.

The nightmare is complete with the skeleton and the monster (Gollum from Lord of the Rings) looking at his laptop. The skeleton stares at a computer screen showing a rotating brain, it is as if his mind has become a machine. Sitting in an office chair, he has no legs. He cannot leave the machine. Next to him, a distorted clock shows how time passing is irrelevant when the machine sucks people in.

People have (hand)written their experiences of technology on the interactive wall, which is filled with stories of being a "twitter widow", having "square eyes", "feeling empty and alone when I'm not on the internet" and "spending at least three hours on my xbox". Others read "my computer gave me sciatica" and "everyone I know has RSI". Electronic immersion now begins earlier and affects leisure time as well as work.

Athletic achievement will be celebrated in 2012 but, as Valerie points out, "the physical fluidity of the Olympic ideal is a sharp contrast to the sedentary and technology- dependent reality of contemporary life". After explaining the thought behind her installation, Valerie gives visitors with sore backs exercises to help muscles that are suffering from too long spent sat at a computer. It's common to brush over injuries sustained by computer use, not wanting to make a fuss because they need to get on with their work. This installation shows, as the note on the wall says, we ignore our bodies "at our peril". 

The Rev! Mother, Magical portals, Catboy and E17 Designers

I'd heard lots of good things about Harriet Hammel's soft sculptures so headed down to St Saviour's to check them out. The Rev! Mother, a full size soft sculpture woman priest, dressed in biker gear, dismounting from the Softuki motorbike, nearly steals the show but Harriet's other sculptures are great too. The cuddly looking laptop jumped out at me because I'd just come from seeing Valerie Grove's "Man Machine" which is about the effect that technology has on our bodies (more coming soon!) There is a great deal of attention to detail in Harriet's work, the Softuki has "made in Walthamstow" hand-embroidered on the engine. 

Weapons of soft destruction
Lucky Stitch, soft pack

On my way back to Hoe Street I saw some curious structures on the green at the end of Gosport Road. A wooden door seemed to be swinging open into nowhere, a bathroom cabinet stuck to a mosaiced wall  and a can of coca cola balanced on a sloping bench. These are Roan Allen's Portals. Roan was interested in how objects can change when you get close. He has taken ordinary structures, with functions and explored their shapes, making them not quite work as usual. The mirror on the bathroom cabinet is at a strange angle which means you can't just stand in front of it and see your reflection and the sliding door does not close because of the shape of the wood. The door is opening but it does not swing through and the bench is the wrong shape to sit on. All this is quite disorientating and "perspective defying". Chief E-Spy also saw this today and has sent over this image of Roan discussing his work. As Roan was discussing his work, rats were frolicking in the grass beyond, which is proof of the importance of the ratcatcher as described in the seminal E-Spy in the Stow booklet (on sale at Penny Fielding & all good Stow shops). E17 rats are have impressive strength. This one was carrying a slice of toast!

Spot the rat!

Later on I met up with some friends who'd been drawn to the Trail by the front cover of the guide, so I took them to see Catboy presents Shadowplay, artist Carl Harris (the man behind the guide cover)'s exhibition of drawings and sketches along with limited edition prints and linocuts exploring the theme of shadowplay.This forms part of the ongoing narrative that is Catboy, the boy with the cat shadow. His drawings of animals and a young boy are full of character and wonderful mark making. The boy getting into some trousers that are far too big for him is charming. However, there is something slightly sinister about these images too.

There was just time to catch the E17 Designers Market and dash round trying to see all the lovely stalls, selling jewellery, ceramics, books, clothes and much more! I was very happy to see the E17 neighbourhood quilt, brought to us by Significant Seams

Blackhorse Lane Open Studios

Michelle Reader
With 28 artists exhibiting and the Artworks Open show, I saw so much work at Blackhorse Lane Open Studios that I'm not sure where to begin. The studios opened in January 2008 and the spaces are flooded with natural light and very roomy. Here's a few images and a little bit about some of the artist's work. Artists, it'd be great if you could post more info and links to your websites in the comment box.

Michelle Reader
I recognised Michelle from her self portrait sculpture (below). She makes inventive pieces from household waste and loves the unpredictability of found materials. Sculpting people out of their waste can tell a great story. On display too are her mechanical wings, which have something of Leonardo Da Vinci's flying machine designs about them. I would have loved to try them out.

Mike Thom
At the top of the stairs sit a charming papier mache sculpted family by Mike Thom, alongside his tower of old teddy bears. Mike Thom is also a talented painter and his portraits his grandfather and of burly wrestlers and rugby players are exhibited upstairs. He said that a lot of these fearsome looking men are very gentle and lovely.

Neil Irons

Gisli Bertam
Family of Objects
Elizabeth de Monchaux

Rosemarie McGoldrick
The large black shape is called "Summer" and is a table, chair and parasol wrapped up in a black polythene sheet.

"Thick paintings and thin paintings"and the seduction of colour. Her lovely books of Walthamstow Estate Agents and two tone trees of Hackney are on display too.

Charlotte Hodes
Striking collages, beautiful patterns and ceramics.

Janet Harley Peter
 Collaged photos make kaleidoscopic patterns.

Look out for the charming Mr. Frog in "Mr. Frog has the last laugh" look up to see him hanging from the ceiling too.
Girls in the bush   

 Charlotte Gerrard
There is humour in Charlotte's raw, painterly images. As she says, "animals' expressions can have a real feelgood factor". Her painting of hares is called "Clocking in" and one hare has a blue collar, and appears to be heading out to work. The lady has a handbag and is telling him he is late. Charlotte's monoprints are delicate and you can see a lot of movement. Every Monday, Charlotte exhibits her lovely work at Spitalfields art market, more info here:

 Some of Sandie's work is inspired by Animal Shrines she saw whilst driving around New Zealand. She makes great use of an impressive variety of materials.

Jonathan O'Dea
In the words of the Trail Guide, "some of the most interesting and engaging art you will find in London and beyond". Lovely texture in his work featuring plaster.

Duncan Evans
Pauline Evans
There were some amazing huge drawings of girls by Pauline on display too that are a must-see.