OFF THE RAILS Online Exhibition: Sunday 24th January – Saturday 20th March
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As part of this exhibition, we invited artists to submit work to respond to ideas around preservation, displacement and memory, and some wider themes on travel, engineering and movement. Works include painting, drawing, mixed media, digital, print, text and sculpture.
Artists are: Archie Yates, Caroline Underwood, Cat James, Christopher Hicks, David Rodford, Gillian Hawkins, Mark Chettle, Michael Bruzon, Sandy Kendall, Sarah Vardy, Steve Miles, Victoria Fellows and Marion R Hunnisett.
Archie has loved trains from watching ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ at age 1, which has followed him through to now age 6. He has a firm and passionate love for steam locomotives. In 2017 and 2018 the family visited Thomas world in Drayton Manor. Last year they visited the National Railway Museum in York and saw the Mallard plus Stephenson’s Rocket. They went on the Flying Scotsman in February 2020 on the Watercress line and also visited Nene Valley Railway in Peterborough over the summer. Archie particularly loves the Flying Scotsman, The Evening Star and The Black Five.
He has many toy steam trains and an extensive wooden track and battery operated steam engines. The family became members of the IW Steam Railway in 2020 for Archie’s 6th birthday.
Using a train journey as his starting point, Christopher Hicks made a series of sketches in which he experimented with abstraction, attempting to evoke a sense of speed and rhythm. He then took part of one sketch and extended the theme, using collage and computer graphics to repeat the design. This formed the basis for a second study.
The final piece is a collage of four-colour lino prints embellished with pencil. Tone, detail and repetition diminish from right to left in order to enhance the sense of horizontal movement. In hind-sight, this image is possibly influenced by the graphic art of the early twentieth century, which in turn was a product of the Futurist Movement. A nice irony, when you consider that both are now imbued with a strong sense of nostalgia.
‘This Too Shall Pass’ is a piece created about preservation and memory, yet also moving on. The mackerel illustration rests on a collage of pages from a vintage Isle of Wight magazine called ‘The Islander’. This piece was first exhibited in 2017 on the Island Line train, as part of the Isle of Wight Day/Gift to Nature ‘Art Train’ project.
Cat James is a writer and graphic designer. She has a couple of regular columns in the local press and, as a designer, is paid to create short-lived leaflets, documents and flyers promoting events, activities and other public messages. It gives her enormous pleasure to see her work around the Island, knowing that she has had a little bit of impact on people’s lives. But ultimately everything is ephemeral and, like her work, this too shall pass.
As an artist, David Rodford brings to his practice the experience of a working life spent in industrial design. In his work he uses this knowledge and synthesising it with his passions, for the physical and intellectual activity of making and the environment, rural, urban and post-industrial. In particular, he is drawn to the forms, textures and rhythms that surround us, but often go unseen, evidence of activity, that is unappreciated or remarked upon.
From his childhood he has had a fascination with the relationship between forms the spaces between them and their alignments, “David spends too much time looking out of the windows.” This now manifests itself in the underlying concern in his work i.e. the placement of forms, texture and colour striving for overall compositions that have balance and tension, within this framework using layers, collage, construction, deconstruction and a variety of materials to build surfaces.
As an artist, Gillian Hawkins examines human experiences, emotions and space. In her paintings she uses oil bars on the canvas to create that sense of immediacy, often contrasting with more solid space. Colour is an important aspect of her work, and although much of her work is abstract, it carries with it a narrative and references to the figurative.
Her work often uses an aspect of the natural world. The British landscape reflects human occupancy and shaping, and has been moved onwards towards change, building on previous uses and needs: very little of our landscape has escaped some aspect of intervention. Her work here reflects that movement and construction, and continuous change going forward.
Gillian Hawkins has a BA and MA in Fine Art/Painting from Winchester School of Art; she is a member of Art Space Portsmouth with a studio in Brougham Rd, Portsmouth, and is also a member of Omega Printmakers. She has exhibited nationally and internationally and has works in British and European collections.
On devising a concept for this exhibition, artist Mark Chettle thought it would be poignant to honour one of the more “human” engines of the Isle Wight Steam Railway. Steve Rowntree was selected as one of the most skilled volunteers at Havenstreet. Foreman painter in the Carriage and wagon workshop, he is responsible for the exceptional finish of the rolling stock. A lawyer by profession, he still practices part-time, painting is in his DNA going back 100 years when his grandfather founded a high-class decorating business after WW1. Mark says ‘it was a pleasure and a privilege to draw Steve’s portrait.’
He used a cartridge pen with a fude nib to add energy to the lines and mimic the grubby bustle of the workshop.
Marion R Hunnisett
Made entirely from salvaged material, Marion R Hunnisett created ‘Spirit of Obstinacy’ as a reminder of our ‘make do and mend’ early years. With special thanks to E. Hunnisett-Taylor, Curator of IW Military and Heritage Museum for unstinted access to her rubbish dump.
They said we could never succeed,Text piece by Marion R Hunnisett
They pointed at pigs flying round
They said we were doomed to failure,
We would never get off the ground
But we did
And we’re flying high!
‘No Exit’ explores memories of tension and confinement experienced during formative years in a suburban commuter town. An under serviced train station becomes a focal point as an only perceived means of escape; here the slow passage of time becomes a ubiquitous feature of the space.
Michael Bruzon’s studio practice investigates the way experiences are remembered and how perception of these experiences evolves over time. The work is informed by Bergson’s writing on the idea of memory as a preservation or prolongation of the past, entailing the coexistence of past and present. As the two cannot be separated, a tension exists throughout his practice as he attempts to interpret readings of the past, superimposed over his position in the present.
Deciding to express all this power, steam and smoke, artist Sandy Kendall first complied a list of words; Shrouded, Girthed, Smoke, Steam, Clouds, Dragons, Power, Heavy, Iron, Noise.
She then began a series of drawings using sharp tonal contrast in compressed charcoal to express strength and atmosphere. Next, she transferred that process onto canvas adding structure in the form of cut polypropylene sections which extend beyond the canvas, suggesting the train moving to an outer destination.
You have to notice one of these trains, all power and steamy fuss
The stuff one of these produces made it seem even bigger to a small child clutching an older hand waiting to board
I watched and heard with nervous awe all that metal, vapour and smoke arrive
Then there was that massive leap onto the narrow step and into the carriage with a quick glance down at the ‘gap’ revealing gravel and wheels far below followed by the slamming of all the doors one after the other.
Journey Begun!Text Piece by Sandy Kendall
‘PAVEMENTS 1 & 2’ are part of a series of paintings exploring the condensed history found in paths, street surfaces and anything we see looking down. The juxtaposition of nature and what is manmade. During the first lockdown, artist Sarah Vardy was commissioned to work on the Heritage Action Zone Project in Ryde. She was given license to spray paint the COVID SPOTS that were spaced throughout the High Street. Inspired by horticultural elements, the project centred around Charles Dimmick, the Victorian nurseryman and florist. The COVID SPOTS were transformed into stencilled flowers. Months later these have been worn away by the elements and footfall. This is the inspiration for PAVEMENTS 1 – building on embedded monoprints and layers of acrylic and spray paint, worn away, displaced, constantly changing with the passage of time.
Steve Miles – WINNING ARTIST
These works on trains represent the beginnings of Steve Miles’ initial interest in the graffiti artform that started on the sides of the trains in the Bronx back in the late 60’s. In the early 80’s when he was a teenager, he was amazed by the large colourful paintings on the sides of the trains and became hooked on practicing the visual style of letterforms –
“Its crazy to think that these kids living in such hard times created a world-wide artform, using their imagination and creativity to produce moving vibrant pieces of work on the side of the trains, it was a way of feeling like they existed and a way out of the gang culture of the times. If you can think past the fact that it was illegal and understand the world these guys were living in hopefully you will find it just as beautiful and amazing as myself! In such desperate and hard times, they found a way to be constructive and creative, giving birth to an amazing artform!”
Award winning Isle of Wight artist Steve Miles is a member of the National Acrylic Painters Association. His abstract language of painting combines a highly expressive and gestural graphic style, that is representational of over three decades spent as a graphic designer and graffiti artist.
Steve Miles is the selected winning artist! Steve has been selected from the exhibition to hold a future solo show in Quay Arts’ Clayden Gallery, gaining one-to-one support from the Arts Team in developing their exhibition. In addition, IW Steam Railway have offered a season ticket to IW Steam Railway, giving them unlimited travel on their trains for one year! Find out more here – OFF THE RAILS Online Exhibition: Winning Artist Announced! | (quayarts.org)
‘Restoration of Time’ is an artist book contained in a pocket watch case. The concertina book structure contains drawings of tools and equipment used in the repair and restoration of watches such as the one used for the casing.
“I have always loved books. From my first day at school when I came home distraught because I hadn’t been taught to read yet I wanted to read books, write books and illustrate books. Then one day someone showed me how to make one. I’d never thought of physically making a book but from that moment I was hooked. A book can be anything and about anything. Since then I haven’t stopped. I wanted this book to show the hidden beauty in these tools and allow an insight into what goes into the restoration of a watch.”
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