Studio Visit and the New Artist’s Manifesto

This week I visited my colleague Rae’s studio as part of a curatorial project. We read from  Manifesto: A New Role for the Artist by JOHN FOX. MBE. Below is a text that I wrote about Rae’s practice after a great studio chat:

Raphael Llewelyn’s current practice investigates the area of landscape occupied by the Dept of Defence Kilworth Camp located north of Fermoy in Co. Cork. The reason I refer to it as an occupied land is that her historical research has revealed evidence of past communities that previously dwelled or sheltered here. In particular, the community of 102 Irish- speaking tenant families who lived on the Kilworth mountain until 1895 when the land was sold to the British army as their summer training grounds.

In my interview with the artist, she mentions that the physical landscape in this area has not changed at all apart for some forestry. She seems to be taking an existential approach to these past cultures; time and place can move on without human inhabitants.

Using anachronistic methods of research, this work is focused on an Ariel map of the 7000-acre site. Responding in painting, collage and etching, scratching or pinpricking the surface, Llewelyn adds layers above the paper plane and exposes the layers beneath. She is treating the paper as an archaeologist would a plot of land, digging to reveal the past dwellings and lives long forgotten. The landscape itself has varying ways of layering several histories

Also considering the cyclic resurgence and loss of the Irish language, there is an absence and presence/ life and death continuum here. The work is also referencing a constellation; by the time we see them, the stars are already dead. Time is not as linear as we sometimes think it to be

Through Ariel maps the artist is plotting out areas that once existed, singling out areas of dwelling within the map to develop and map out for herself a psychic geography and history of the landscape. The connections I have made between Llewelyn’s work and the reading of Manifesto: A new role for the artist is that Llewelyn acts as our catalyst and connects us through her visual engagements with the history of this site and its past languages and cultures.

De Stijl manifesto, 1918
De Stijl manifesto, 1918

Manifesto: A New Role for the Artist

Population growth, global warming, scarcity, religious and cyber wars, famine, environmental degradation, nuclear proliferation and refugees, signal EMERGENCY.  As our financial and religious frameworks are also collapsing, and our media drives anxiety, DEPRESSION looms. So how do we celebrate what is worthwhile and gives us peace of mind? Traditionally some artists have offered inspiration. In our consumer culture however, many of us, including artists, are hi-jacked by spectacle, novelty and celebrity, and encouraged to create investment product.

In this unsettling time we must look to process to find the ground rules of a culture, which may be less materially based, but where more people will actively participate and rejoice in moments that are wonderful. A culture where more of us grow and cook our own food, build our own houses, name our children, bury our dead, mark anniversaries, create new ceremonies for rites of passage and devise whatever drama, stories, songs, music, pageants and jokes that enable people to live more creatively.

Dominant fashionable so-called art, currently perpetuated by a small number of cultural gate-keepers, their institutions and their manipulative dealing, needs to be re-colonised as a mode of intuitive knowledge with a vernacular root. (vernacular – any value that is homebred, homemade, neither bought nor sold  on the market).

A new role for the artist as catalyst, hands on facilitator and celebrant who recognises the artist in us all and liberates the innate creativity of every age through participation and collaboration. A society where re-generation is of the soul and not of economics.

JOHN FOX. MBE.  22 January 2018

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