A conversation between Fiona Grady, Linda Hemmersbach, and Hannah Luxton about ‘Shaping the Void II’ an exhibition they have co-curated which brings together a group of artists whose work addresses ways to represent the concept of the void.
‘Shaping the Void II’ is currently at Tannery Arts, London, and includes work by Fiona Grady, Vincent Hawkins, Linda Hemmersbach, Robert Holyhead, Hannah Luxton, Isabel Moseley, Kate Owens and Lucy May Schofield.
‘Shaping the Void II’ follows on from a previous installment - ‘Shaping the Void’ - at Bankley Gallery in Manchester. How are the two exhibitions linked?
LH: ‘Shaping the Void’ at Bankley Gallery in Manchester was a 3-person show which found a narrative between our individual practices; focusing on painting and site-specific drawing. After many conversations, emails and studio visits, we came up with the concept for ‘Shaping the Void’. The show focused on the idea of the Void within contemporary painting practice with regards to Spirituality and Eastern Philosophy, which perceives Nothingness as full of energy and light.
‘Shaping the Void II’ at Tannery Arts expands on this concept by including artists working in other mediums, such as sculpture and printmaking/light photography.
HL: Both exhibitions work to suggest that imagination is a vehicle to transport us in closer proximity to the void. For part 2, we wanted to open up the conversation to a more secular understanding of the void. The artists are concerned with absence, impermanence, intangibility, and the works operate within varying speeds of time.
FG: As Linda is based in Manchester and curates the space at Bankley Gallery, we wanted to offer an exchange by inviting her to use the project space at Tannery Arts (where Hannah and I have studios). This desire to promote exchange with other artists was important to us, so we invited Lucy May Schofield and Isabel Moseley to join us; who are based within the North West and North East of England.
How did the three of you develop this project together? How long has it been in the works?
LH: The conversations for ‘Shaping the Void II’ began pretty quickly after the show in Manchester in September. We had enjoyed working together and wanted to develop the ideas of the initial exhibition further. Fiona and Hannah had just started sharing a studio together at Tannery Arts next to the Drawing Room in Bermondsey, London. It has a Project Space which the studio holders can use for exhibitions, so it fell into place quite naturally.
FG: Tannery Arts encourages the studio holders to use the project space as an experimental venue, to challenge our practice, and to create opportunities for ourselves and other artists. For the second show we wanted to invite artists whose work we felt an affinity with; we mainly invited artists that we hadn’t met or worked with before. It was a great way to expand upon the earlier themes discussed during the development of the first exhibition. We aimed to introduce new entry points into the discussion of the ‘void’.
HL: For me, this project has been in the making for several years – I just didn’t know it until I met Fiona and Linda, and we realized we shared a connection with the subject. ‘Shaping the Void’ has allowed me to continue my MA research on the sublime in a visual format.
This exhibition brings together eight artists, each exploring the concept of the void. Where do these works, or bodies of work, overlap?
HL: All works in the show share a visual language rooted in abstraction and minimalism. They present a ‘hidden view’ that calls for intuition over logic and operate in the realms of imagination where the usual boundaries of the physical world don’t exist.
LH: For example, Hannah Luxton’s linen paintings, Robert Holyhead’s watercolors and Fiona Grady’s wall drawings take the form of isolated geometric shapes, carefully composed and layered within the painted or projected space to allow for a heightened awareness of space and slower sense of time.
A particular attention to surface, color, and mark-making is also evident in my own and Vincent Hawkin’s paintings on panel and canvas. Shifts in tone and movement invite the viewer to study the paintings intimately, where paint has been applied and removed, leaving us to consider what has been built up, is barely there or on the verge of collapse.
FG: Kate Owen’s and Lucy May Schofield’s works share this sense of fragility but also opens up the concept of the Void to the element of time, presenting us with the afterimages of an event or action. Lucy May Schofield’s cyanotypes are mysterious but tangible objects of something seemingly intangible; the absence of light during Winter Solstice. Kate Owens’s paint-covered soaps are miniature worlds but they hold within them the process of something vanishing: did they assist the artist in removing a mural, or the traces of a painting process? Isabel Moseley is also fascinated with working with the intangible, both as a material and concept. Her delicate ‘window’ sculptures trap a volume of air creating an invisible space made visible for us to look through or into.
These works all present physical responses to the concept of nothingness or absence. What do you think draws us to make something to explore the idea of nothing?
HL: The void, aka nothingness, is essentially the beyond of knowledge and is most readily assigned to notions of infinity or eternity. C18th philosopher Edmund Burke quotes that “it is our ignorance of things that causes all our admiration, and chiefly excites our passions. Knowledge and acquaintance make the most striking causes affect but little … the ideas of eternity, and infinity, are among the most affecting we have, and yet there is perhaps nothing of which we really understand so little …” It is the not knowing that will forever intrigue humankind.
LH: I think the notion of ‘nothingness’ creates a counterpart to the bombardment of images and information and crowded spaces of our contemporary world, which can be very hard to escape in day-to-day life. Perhaps the desire to make work that is not defined by language or descriptive, recognizable forms comes from a yearning for space, ambiguity, escapism and new possibilities.
Stripping something back to its essence and using minimal means to create meaning allows us to step out of the accelerated world in order to appreciate silence and slowness, to let the mind wander and invite mystery in. In a sense, ‘Nothingness’ doesn’t really exist and is a concept that is hard to comprehend for the human mind. Science is built on theories of Nothingness. Rather than thinking of ‘Nothing’ in negative terms such as ‘empty or ‘a lack of’, the artists we have brought together are interested in finding the ‘something’ in ‘nothingness’, in the same way that a poet considers the pauses in-between his words or a musician the silence in a piece of music.
What is coming up next? Do you have plans for a third installment of the exhibition?
LH: At the moment we are looking forward to our closing party on the 31st March, for which we are launching a publication about the project, to this date, with texts by art writers Sara Jaspan and Kathryn Lloyd. A third installment of the exhibition would be wonderful as there are still many artists we would love to work with.
FG: Yes, a third installment would be great. We’ve been really pleased with the response that we’ve had for the project so far so it would be worth pursuing for 2018, perhaps in a larger space, or new context. Each of us is also working on other projects such as curation Footfall Art (Hannah), Bankley Gallery (Linda) and contributing to Saturation Point (Fiona); as well as working in our individual studio practices towards solo shows and residencies later in the year. I have my first solo exhibition abroad at Ad Hoc in Bochum, Germany this summer which is pretty exciting.
HL: It looks like we are all agreed on part three for the future. And yes, Footfall Art, my pop up window project, hopes to ‘pop up’ again this summer! I have a solo exhibition in Farnham Maltings this May and some other group exhibitions to look forward to.
‘Shaping the Void’ continues until 31 March at Tannery Arts, London SE1 5SF, with a closing party on Friday 31 March, 6.30 - 8.30pm. For more information, visit http://www.shapingthevoid.co.uk.
For more on Fiona Grady’s work, visit http://www.fionagrady.co.uk. For more on Linda Hemmersbach’s work, visit http://www.lindahemmersbach.co.uk. For more on Hannah Luxton’s work, visit. http://www.hannahluxton.com.