Items where Subject is "Painting"

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G

Once heralded as a ‘fortress built by Nature for herself... a moat defensive to a house…’ our island is slowly unravelling. Across political, social and economic dimensions, Britain is beset and besieged. ‘Our scepter’d isle’ is fast fraying at the edges.

Politically, these have been intense years. A tortuous and messy divorce from Europe is being tested daily at customs posts on the land and across invisible lines on the high seas. Once a totem of English authority, the White Cliffs of Dover have become irreversibly politicised. One faction regards them as unassailable battlements, while a rival party deploys their sheer white slopes as a vast projection screen to beam forlorn messages of loss to our European neighbours. North and south along the coastline, our Channel beaches have become the landing sites for waves of refugees seeking solace and security after perilous voyages from war-ravaged homelands.

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The special authority invested in the war artist and the image had become denuded by the mid-1980s. Although an independent artist working to commission, Peter Howson’s work in the Balkans was considered to have crossed the line that distinguished between impersonal witness and overzealous artist. Unlike William Orpen’s impartial rendition of gross personal violation, Howson was deemed to have become both judge and jury, an advocate not an artist, corrupted by circumstantial evidence rather than remaining vigilant as an uncorruptible viewer. For his part, Howson was clear that the terms of engagement had fundamentally changed since the Great War: it was no longer simply about what could be seen or not seen, but also what was known and could not be denied.

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In the year which marked the centenary of the start of the First World War, a series of creative projects in Bristol considered past, contemporary and continuing conflicts. A unique record of these exhibitions and events has now been captured for this book.

Under the generic title Back From the Front: Art, Memory and the Aftermath of War the projects consisted of five overlapping exhibitions staged at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol, UK - a curated show of work by John and Paul Nash; a unique gathering of work by contemporary artists examining war and peace under the title Shock and Awe: Contemporary Artists at War and Peace, and a sequence of exhibitions united under the word Re-membering, which were a series of commissions funded by the Arts Council England and co-ordinated by the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership and Bristol 2014. A fifth exhibition The Death of Nature gave a showcase to the recent paintings of Michael Porter RWA.

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S

Bare Foot Prophet was a programme of practice-led research instigated by a critique of ‘Artists as Prophet: a secret history of modern art 1872-1972’, staged at the Shirn Kunstalle Frankfurt, Germany, which explored the artist prophets of modernising Germany and their envisioning of the political turmoil of their time.
Shepherd’s exhibition in London (May-June 2015) of nine paintings was informed by the German period of modernisation, as well as contemporary crises of environmental regeneration, and a desire that contemporary painting might act as oracle. Consistent with Shepherd’s habitual methodologies, surreal and magical techniques were used to generate imagery, the act of painting was intuitive, motivated at times by a sense of derangement, with a desire that the outcomes might act as clairvoyance, that the future could be seen.
The imagery generated presaged the political and social turmoil that the United Kingdom was to find itself in with the EU referendum called in autumn 2015. The ongoing insights generated from this work ask questions concerning creative foresight, coincidence and intuitive making.
The enquiry was augmented by public gallery discussions between the artist, Dr Gavin Parkinson and gallery director Zavier Ellis, and subsequently by conference presentations and seminars.

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Downstream was a solo exhibition held in London during September-October 2019. The research question explored the divinatory powers of water through the process of painting as actual, metaphorical, symbolic and magical source. Utilising his immediate locality and family as visual material, Shepherd uses methodologies of ritual, trance, enactment and prediction as means of visualisation; the intuitive and unknowing are decision-making tools. The act of painting and the painted are where the intuitive is constructed into the concrete, a process of revelation through the act of making. Although seemingly of a very personal nature the finished outcomes are made as universal cyphers that act upon the audience; wider social; historical; cultural; political readings float to the surface. Through his lines of enquiry, painting becomes a scrying tool akin to water, reflection, surface and depth are synthesised through the mediating act of painting.

The exhibition was accompanied by a publication with written contributions by Professor Gavin Parkinson, Tim Russell and a commissioned poem by Miranda Peake. A public discussion between Parkinson and Shepherd on insights garnered in the creation of Downstream took place at the gallery during Frieze week London, drawing an international audience. Ongoing insights into the methodologies and context of the research were questioned through meetings and discussion with publication contributors, resulting in a joint conference paper at Painting Now at the Royal Academy, London (June 2018) and book chapter Dominic Shepherd and Richard Waring, ‘Head, Heart, Hand: Painting in a Post-Digital World’. Painting Now’, which was linked to the Black Mirror Research Network, of which Shepherd is a founding member.

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Old England was a two-part exhibition of 19 pieces with differing works created by Shepherd for Charlie Smith London at NY Volta, a major international art fair specialising in solo projects and Charlie Smith London, a gallery with international reach.

As part of an extensive programme of research Shepherd has conducted systematic explorations of the nature of English identity, using mythological resonances, magical / surrealist methodologies and intuitive readings. At the heart of the questions being explored are the artist’s personal dichotomy between his own progressive social stance and romantic yearnings, which reflect a nation in a period of internal political strife and uncertainty. The making of these paintings was an act of negative capability, the defined zone of the artist’s habitat and environs becoming a receiver for poetic readings of wider cultural implications

Critical public debate is core to Shepherd’s research. The exhibition in NY Volta was supported by a public discussion between Shepherd and Jesse Brandsford (NYU Steinhardt) titled ‘Alternative Myths’, its subject: Fascism relies on myth, a form of ideological narcissism that twists reality and forces its own authoritarian will; examines how the mythic and magical is also used as a form of resistance, an alternative, to that authoritarianism.

The portfolio identifies adjacent research projects that informed Shepherd’s research into Englishness and contemporary crises of identity: Observatory residence and exhibition at ArtsWay, New Forest featuring research into Portland, an island off an island (July 2017); public discussion on the painted landscape at Sluice Festival, London (September-October 2017); Exhibition featuring Shepherd’s work ‘The Beast’ at ‘Width of a Circle’, Titan Warehouse, Stourbridge (March-April 2018) with published interview, ‘Burning Beyond the Logical Lake’, with Tom Hicks; presentation of ‘The Haunted Isle: Conjuring England’s Subconscious Landscape’ at International Society for the Study of Surrealism Conference, Bucknell University, USA (November 2018).

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