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Negative Press Event: Martin Crawley and Jane Wildgoose in Bow, 17 June 2017

On Saturday 17 June, Negative Press London presented an intimate exhibition and salon-style event, which took place at Martin Crawley’s home and studio in Bow, London E3. Martin Crawley and Jane Wildgoose exhibited together for the first time for this special one-off event.

Martin exhibited three works from Arcadia, a commentary on ideas of the picturesque and its eighteenth century beginnings, the starting point of which was a set of 1950s postcards published by the British Museum of prints and drawings by Claude Lorraine.

Jane exhibited Lost But Not Forgotten, a work-in-progress inspired by nineteenth century amateur women hairworkers who made flowers from the hair of family and friends, which they entwined in commemorative wreaths and displayed on parlour walls.

Both discussed their art and read from their books published by Negative Press London.

Negative Press London, Martin Crawley, Jane Wildgoose, 17 June 2017

Martin Crawley and Jane Wildgoose at Martin’s studio in Bow, London E3, 17 June 2017

Negative Press London, Martin Crawley, Jane Wildgoose, 17 June 2017

Three works from ‘Arcadia’ by Martin Crawley

Negative Press London, Martin Crawley, Jane Wildgoose, 17 June 2017

‘Lost But Not Forgotten’ by Jane Wildgoose

Negative Press London, Martin Crawley, Jane Wildgoose, 17 June 2017

Martin Crawley reads from his book Placing Stones (Negative Press London, 2015)

 Negative Press London, Martin Crawley, Jane Wildgoose, 17 June 2017

Jane Wildgoose reads from Strong Room (Roelof Bakker & Jane Wildgoose, Negative Press London 2014)

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David Gledhill talks about his art and ‘In Camera’, his book collaboration with author Nicholas Royle

David Gledhill by Roelof Bakker

On the first anniversary of the publication of In Camera by author Nicholas Royle and artist David Gledhill, Roelof Bakker from Negative Press talks to David Gledhill about the background to the paintings featured in the book and what it was like collaborating with fellow-Mancunian, author Royle.

For your work, you source materials from both personal and institutional photographic archives to produce hyper realistic large-scale paintings, often with political meaning. The paintings included in In Camera are of snapshots from a 1950s family photo album of an East German family, which you found in a flea market in Frankfurt. What drew you to paint these photographs of strangers snapped many years ago and what’s it like painting people who you only know as subjects in a photograph?

I was given the album as a Christmas present a few years ago. At first the photographs in it looked very pale and washed out. There were a lot of interiors and some garden shots and other snaps that had been taken in the street, just outside the Doctor’s house in a small town called Teutschenthal in the former East Germany. I had been painting from secondhand photographs for a few years and having been to Berlin and Frankfurt looking for material, I had got used to leafing quickly through old albums in junk shops or flea markets and knew what to look for. There was something about this album that intrigued me. It seemed to have been put together for someone as a kind of ‘this is your life’ souvenir, and when I got the inscriptions translated, it turned out that it was meant for a Doctor Munscheid’s daughter as a 5th wedding anniversary gift. It was difficult to put a timeline to it but there were pre-war postcards, 1950s shots of the Doctor’s home and extended family, newspaper clippings and testimonials from the communist period, so it gave a glimpse of family life under two of the most extreme regimes in modern history. I also wanted to find out how it had ended up in a flea market in Frankfurt. The album was the start of an adventure that changed the course of my work and turned into one of the most profound experiences of my life.

David Gledhill In Camera

‘Smile, please!’ said T from behind me and Father’s face split into a huge grin. (painting by David Gledhill, words by Nicholas Royle)

I’ve never been content with the idea of painting as a self-contained activity, that’s mostly about its own history. Painting is a lonely enough job, without restricting its potential to communicate as broadly as possible. Using these old snaps seemed a good way to start to reach out and to make some kind of contact with the lived experience of other people, through painting. At the start I wasn’t sure what would happen, but by the time I had made about 30 paintings from the album I felt as though I knew the family, and particularly the house, intimately.

Your paintings are meticulous enlargements of small originals, exposing details otherwise not evident and therefore changing the nature of the original, it’s not just about the subject, but about every other aspect in the image too. Nick picked up on these details and used them in his writing (the Bakelite switch, the bird sculpture, the small framed photograph in the background). When and why did you decide upon this method of working?

I spent a long time making paintings in the expressionist tradition with exaggerated forms and colours, trowelling on the paint from big pots and trying to make the work as high impact as possible. Eventually this approach started to feel too aggressive. I had always thought that working from photographs was somehow illegitimate but when I started using them for reference it seemed to work. Like a lot of people, I’ve always loved old movies and black and white photography, and it gradually dawned on me that I could pull all these things together. The paintings became more like visual inventories of the way people, places and things used to look, something that perhaps motivates the taking of photographs as well. That way you can present a place or a situation to the viewer and they can make their own mind up, based on their experiences or memories of similar places.

As a photographer I believe every photograph is a lie, therefore a painting of a photograph is an even bigger lie. What truths are you looking to express or expose in your work?

Well, there’s certainly a lot more artifice in a photograph than one might think. Photography is still a bit of a mystery and philosophers continue to argue about what it does, and how it’s different to painting, but I think the instinct to present experience in a flat tableau form that can be read at leisure, seems to be as old as social life itself. I’ve always been more interested in the effect a work of art has, than in whether it’s necessarily true or real, and I suppose I’ve started from what I find enthralling and then hunted for source material that has a kind of mood or atmosphere that appeals to me. It seems to me that the most a photograph can tell you is that someone wanted to take it, and for me that’s where a lot of the intrigue comes in. Painting from photographs simply confirms that it’s not the documentary content that’s interesting but the motivation behind the recording of it.

Das Esszimmer David Gledhill

It was Onkel F who gave the Maltest Falcon to Father and Mother. (painting by David Gledhill, words by Nicholas Royle)

I’ve always been more interested in the effect a work of art has, than in whether it’s necessarily true or real

When I produced literary art book Still (Negative Press London, 2012), I collaborated with twenty-six writers. The idea was for each writer to choose a photograph from a project exploring vacated spaces and breathe new life into it, to occupy the empty space with new meaning, without creative restrictions. I found it incredibly exciting and rewarding to let go of the photographs and to surrender them to somebody else’s imagination. You invited Nick to collaborate. What did you expect? Was it hard giving up whatever meanings you may have attached to the paintings? In the initial stages did you meet up to discuss an approach or did you allow Nick’s imagination free reign?

As far as I remember, Nick looked at the work and came up with the stories entirely by himself. I had read some of his stuff and loved the atmospherics as well as the momentum of the storylines. I was really pleased that he was up for it, because although I had all kinds of theories about what may have happened to the family, I didn’t necessarily want the paintings to make up a coherent narrative by themselves. I like John Berger’s idea of a photograph as a ‘trace’ but I’m also fascinated by the possibility of other interpretations drawn from the visual clues you mentioned. Now, with the book, there is a constellation of stories, including what I’ve learned about the family since finishing the work. Although the truth may be out of reach, I think something emerges from the writing and its relationship to the paintings, the photographs and the people in them, that comes close to how we narrate our lives by piecing together stories told about us by ourselves and others. There are contradictions. For example Nick has introduced a brother, and when I met Renate it turned out that she was an only child. But then many of us invent fictional friends and even relatives when we’re young. To my mind, Nick has performed an incredible feat of imagination in evoking the tone and dynamic of family life at that time, and the stories have an austerity and a kind of rectitude that I recall from my childhood in the early 60s. So, the meaning of the work is not necessarily only about the story, there’s so much else going on.

Cover of In Camera David Gledhill Nicholas Royle

In Camera book cover

With the help of a German neighbour and an article by the BBC, you managed to locate one surviving family member included in the photo album (Renate to whom the book is dedicated). What happened?

I mentioned the project to a German couple who were neighbours in Old Trafford, and incredibly, they had a contact in Teutschenthal. This friend knew a Dentist who had taken over the Munscheid house when the Doctor died. I contacted the Dentist who in turn put me in touch with surviving members of the family. They were really helpful and told me that Renate herself was alive and living in a nursing home near Frankfurt, where the album was found. I managed to win their trust and arranged to visit her and to return the album, which apparently she knew nothing about. It turned out that despite all the care and effort that had been put into this thing, it had somehow been forgotten and she had never received it.

I arrived one freezing January with a film camera and tripod, carrying the album and a little painting I had made from a photograph she had sent me, and she welcomed me at the door of her flat as though we had been lifelong friends. She had prepared afternoon ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ and we chatted for hours about her early life in the East, and her marriage to a West German businessman. She had moved to the West before it became too difficult, but her husband occasionally drove back to the GDR on business, which meant they could visit her parents. It must have been during one of those return trips that some of the photographs were taken. The ones in front of the car that the cover painting is based on, and another where they are sitting in the garden, radiate love and contentment. As she leafed through the album these shots seemed too painful to look at, and it was obvious that she missed her husband terribly. The afternoon passed very quickly and as I was leaving I had to insist that she keep the album, because she was trying to give it back to me. The whole experience was incredibly affecting. The flat was full of the furniture that I had spent so long trying to paint that it felt like I had grown up with it myself.

Back at home I made a short film about the trip, which I posted on YouTube. I wouldn’t pretend to be a professional filmmaker, but finding Renate hadn’t just completed the project, it had also convinced me that painting needn’t be an isolating and hermetic pursuit. I made a lot of mistakes during the time when I was researching the album, but I think I learned more about what art can do in those three hours of conversation than I had in the 30 years I’d spent painting up to then.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

Immediately after the Munscheid paintings, I wanted to open out some of the political themes I had been thinking about. I worked with press photographs of the House Un-American Activities Committee trials, but I’ve also carried on working with German subjects. Susan Hiller said all the artists she knew who had been to Germany had made interesting work and when you go, it’s obvious why. German history is literally lying on the road waiting to be picked up over there. I made a series of paintings from another photograph album put together by a civil servant working in Poland during the Second World War that I found at the same Frankfurt flea market. At the moment I’m working on paintings of the athlete’s village that was built for the 1936 Berlin Olympics. This project is slightly different in that I started with a visit to the site and I’m working from my own photographs as well as from historic material. Just the other day I was sent a box of photos and papers belonging to one Karl Hoffmann; another flea market ‘find’. It has the deeds of a plot of land in Czechoslovakia and the blueprint of a house design, as well as all kinds of official documents. I can’t wait to get started on it! Finally, as co-director of Rogue Artists’ Studios CIC I’m involved in the relocation of the studios to a major new facility, but I’m not allowed to talk about that yet!

LINKS

Buy In Camera, http://negativepresslondon.bigcartel.com/product/in-camera

BBC article, 30 November 2010, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-11849178

Author David Rose interviews Nicholas Royle for the Negative Press blog about In Camera, http://www.neg-press.com/david-rose-interviews-nicholas-royle/

Renate (19mins, 27 secs), video by David Gledhill, published 5 October 2012

 

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How Many Hopes Lie Buried Here Mother, exhibition at the Dutch Centre

How Many Hopes Lie Buried Here Mother is exhibited at the Dutch Centre in London until 18 December 2016.

Four photographs were taken at Arnhem/Oosterbeek War Cemetery (ages 31, 32, 38 and 39).

The Library, Dutch Centre, Dutch Church, 7 Austin Friars, London EC2N 2HA. To make an appointment to view call 020 7588 1684 or email info@dutchcentre.com

Exhibition view

Exhibition view, Dutch Centre, ages 20-24

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HOW MANY HOPES LIE BURIED HERE MOTHER | Remembering James Carter Irwin

How Many Hopes Lie Buried Here Mother Roelof Bakker Negative Press London 2016

The inscription on the headstone of James Carter Irwin supplied by his mother Jennie Carter Irwin was the inspiration for the title of the photo book HOW MANY HOPES LIE BURIED HERE MOTHER

On Sunday 31 July Roelof Bakker from Negative Press London launched his photo book HOW MANY HOPES LIE BURIED HERE MOTHER at the grave of Canadian soldier James Carter Irwin in Nunhead (All Saints) Cemetery in south London. He delivered a short remembrance speech and laid flowers on James’ grave in the company of close friends.

The photographs in the book show ages on headstones in war cemeteries tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The book is dedicated to James Carter Irwin and his mother Jennie Carter Irwin.

The speech is reproduced here.

Remembering James Carter Irwin, 31 July 2016 – Roelof Bakker

Since 2007 I have been working on a project photographing ages on headstones of fallen soldiers in cemeteries tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. I have photographed in cemeteries around Ypres in Belgium, municipal cemeteries in London and in Arnhem/Oosterbeek war cemetery near where I grew up in Holland.

I’ve come to Nunhead cemetery a number of times since 2008 and the first time I was here I noticed the epitaph on James Carter Irwin’s headstone and photographed it. These words kept haunting me over the years as I visited other war cemeteries and I came back several times to photograph this headstone. It slowly dawned on me that the epitaph summed up what my project was about, what I was trying to express.

Once I decided to take these words HOW MANY HOPES LIE BURIED HERE MOTHER as the title of my photo book and project, I wanted to find out more about the person whose gravestone this was and who it was who had supplied the wording for the inscription.

James Carter Irwin was a seventeen year old Canadian bank clerk from Ontario, who lied about his age when he enlisted the army in 1915. He joined the Princes Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in the field on 30 May 2016 near Sanctuary Wood in Ypres and was seriously wounded on 2 June 1916. He was taken to the UK to King George Hospital in Stamford Street, SE1 where he died on this day 100 years ago aged eighteen.

His mother Jennie Carter Irwin, instructed the inscription, asking the question herself, How Many Hope Lie Buried Here? (signed) Mother. We will never know, but I want to remember James and his mother Jennie today as I am now involved with them, they’ve inspired me, and as they’ve both become a part of my project I have dedicated the publication to both of them.

I feel honoured to lay these flowers on James’s grave and to pay tribute to both him and his mother.

Thank you James, thank you Jennie and thank you all for being here today.


HOW MANY HOPES LIE BURIED HERE MOTHER is available from the Negative Press online shop

More information at www.rbakker.com/hopes

 

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‘In Camera’ London launch, 10 May 2016 at the Soho Collective

What a great evening the London launch of In Camera was.

Many thanks to everyone who attended.

The event took place at the Soho Collective on Moor Street on 10 May 2016, with German author and publisher Meike Ziervogel contributing by leading a discussion about the book, focusing on its setting in East Germany during the Cold War, David’s Gledhill approach to art and why two men from Manchester are fixated about Germany.

Warm thanks to photographer Jo Mieszowski for taking these photographs.

David Gledhill at the In Camera London launch Negative Press London

David Gledhill at the In Camera London launch

Nicholas Royle reading

Nicholas Royle reading from In Camera

Nicholas Royle, David Gledhill and Meike Ziervogel at the In Camera London launch Negative Press London

Meike Ziervogel leading a discussion

Meike Ziervogel at the In Camera London launch Negative Press London

Author and publisher Meike Ziervogel

Roelof Bakker at the In Camera London launch Negative Press London

Roelof Bakker from Negative Press London

Nicholas Royle (author) and Robin Jones (Unthank Books) at the In Camera London launch Negative Press London

Nicholas Royle signing a copy for Robin Jones from Unthank Books

Moray Laing at the In Camera London launch Negative Press London

Moray Laing at the launch

David Gledhill signing In Camera

David Gledhill signing

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‘In Camera’ Manchester launch at Anthony Burgess Foundation

In Camera had its Manchester pre-publication launch on Tuesday 3 May at the Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester. Andrew Biswell, director of the Foundation, chaired this entertaining evening, with Nick reading two texts from the book and David explaining his approach to painting. Three paintings featured in the book were exhibited on the night.

Big thanks from Roelof Bakker at Negative Press London to everyone who attended and many thanks to the Anthony Burgess Foundation for their hospitality and for making this event a resounding success.

AndrewBiswellNicholasRoyleDavidGledhill_3May2016_AnthonyBF_web
audience_InCamera_Manchester3May2016
DavidGledhill3May2016
NicholasRoyleReading

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Placing Stones reviewed by Adrian Slatcher for Sabotage Reviews

Artist Adrian Slatcher has reviewed Placing Stones by Martin Crawley for Sabotage Reviews. He writes:

“This small press, expertly helmed by photographer/writer Roelof Bakker, specialises in beautifully produced and conceived books that mix the visual and the literary, and this latest work, presented elegantly in a plastic wrapping, has a delightful simplicity to it. I’m no geologist, but the drawings evoke that sense of discovery you might get from finding an unusual stone on a distant beach or a mountain walk, and in tandem with the elegant verses which seem to be personal memorials, Crawley has created a highly satisfying object that though personal to the artist/poet is surely also intriguing to the accidental reader; a bit like the wanderer who comes across a dedication in an overgrown churchyard.”

Read the full review at Sabotage Reviews

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Q&A | Martin Crawley talks about his book ‘Placing Stones’

Martin Crawley Placing Stones

Martin Crawley. Photograph by Roelof Bakker

MARTIN CRAWLEY was born in London in 1955 and has lived in the city all his life. After attending art school at Middlesex Poly, he supported his practice for many years working in animation. His work has been included in group shows at Angela Flowers (London), Manchester Art Gallery and Spacex in Exeter. He was based at Space Studios in Hackney for over thirty years; he now works from his home studio in Bow.

Roelof Bakker talks to him about his art and writing in relation to Placing Stones, an artist book that mixes sparse evocative texts with gentle pencil drawing of stones. The book is his first publication.

Placing Stones marks your return to being a practicing artist. How does it feel to be back?
I had a severe brain injury in 2003 after which it took me some time to get started again. I initially concentrated on small commissions, until I was ready to focus on new bodies of work, of which Placing Stones is the first one to see the light of day.

The stones in the book are reproduced at their actual size. You collected them during walks in the Great Britain, Spain and France. When did you start collecting stones and why and when did you begin to draw them?
I’ve been collecting stones ever since I was a child. I’ve always been drawn to their unique individuality, the difference in texture and shape and the surprising dissimilarity between stones when they are in a dry or wet state.

Between Charmouth and Golden Cap, Dorset

Between Charmouth and Golden Cap, Dorset

One of the stones (‘Between Charmouth and Golden Cap, Dorset’) was found during a family holiday in Dorset when I was eleven years old. It’s the one I treasure most. It’s actually a fossilised starfish rather than a stone.

Some years ago I was moving house and I put all the stones I collected in a shoebox. When I looked at them again a couple of years later, it dawned on me that there are many stories attached to some of these stones, like the circumstances in which I found them or the people they were connected to. The process of writing and drawing happened simultaneously, it was a new experience.

Why did you use a pencil?
I wanted a single line to define the shape of each stone, I did not feel the need to add shading or delineation. By just using a pencil line the drawings become mysterious and can be interpreted in a number of ways. I’ve been told some look like maps or brains or other body parts.

Was drawing and writing a way of accepting loss you have experienced?
Loss is an experience everyone has. It’s a part of life. To move forward in life, acceptance is important. Just because people are not here anymore, doesn’t mean you don’t think about them. I wanted to have a deeper understanding of some of the people from my past, to make sense of the lives they led. They became alive again inside my head; thinking about their circumstances on hindsight allowed me to be more understanding and perhaps less judgemental, it helped me reflect on how they impacted on my life.

I wanted to have a deeper understanding of some of the people from my past, to make sense of the lives they led.

Placing Stones Martin CrawleyWhich text means most to you?
The most sparse of the texts in the book, ‘Alistair’, one of the later texts I wrote; its approach is helping shape my current writing.

Thinking of lost plants,
imagined gardens,
then, the night,
when he finally died.
— excerpt from ‘Alistair’

It took me a while to convince you to embarks on the book project with Negative Press. The aim of the press is to make each book we publish a different proposition, a unique project. Like all thoughtful artists, you explored a number of alternative ways of presenting your work. In the end we worked closely putting the book together. Are  you contemplating presenting the art work in exhibition format at some point in the future?
I think the project works especially well in printed form, it’s a simple design that offers space for reflection. As the book derives from an original set of drawings, I wouldn’t rule out exhibiting the work; there are a number of creative options that I would consider.

Are you continuing mixing up writing and drawing as part of your practice?
I’m presently making a series of ink-based drawings. I’m writing text to go with these, but I may well end up not using the words, it may be too much.

If you could pick one person, who has most influenced your work as an artist?
Joseph Beuys: he’s inspired me since I was a young man. I’ve always embraced his unique view of the world, mixing humour, storytelling and politics with a great profundity. I respect his political commitment and his unwillingness to go for easy options, either in art or politics. Apart from being an artist, he was one of the founders of the Green Party in Germany (1980), as well as co-founding the Free International University. >Wikipedia He was a performer too and made an anti-Reagan pop video in 1982, Sonne statt Reagan. >Youtube

What is your favourite book of poems?
William Carlos Williams, Collected Poems. Williams manages to say everything about life in a very pure style, with a sense of humour too, he’s greatly influenced my writing. I love his poem ‘Landscape with the Fall of Icarus’, inspired by the Greek tragedy of Icarus and a 1558 painting by Pieter Brueghel, which hangs in the National Gallery, London.

Placing Stones by Martin Crawley, available in an edition of 200, £14 from the Negative Press Shop, in-store at the Tate Modern Bookshop and Bookartbookshop, 17 Pitfield Street, London N1 6HB.

Placing Stones Martin Crawley

Placing Stones

 

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‘Placing Stones’ at Tate Modern Bookshop

Placing Stones Tate Modern bookshop

Placing Stones at Tate Modern bookshop

Happy to see Placing Stones by Martin Crawley in the Artists Monographs section at the Tate Modern Bookshop in London, standing tall next to the likes of Louise Bourgeois. Thank you, Tate Modern for supporting our press and stocking our books.

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‘Placing Stones’ | launch

Negative Press London returned to the Soho Collective in Moor Street, London W1, on Tuesday 24 February, for the launch of Placing Stones by Martin Crawley. The event included a moving recital by Martin of his text ‘Alistair’ and Stephen Wrench contributed a haunting reading of ‘Mercedes’ and talked about the book’s quality as a calm, meditative work, a non-shouting voice in a world drowning in noise and marketing slogans.

Martin Crawley, Placing Stones, Soho Collective

Martin Crawley (centre) at the launch of Placing Stones at the Soho Collective, Tuesday 24 February 2015

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