Blogger Rebecca Guyver wanted to know more about one of Suffolk Open Studios affiliated art galleries, so she asked Ian Moss of the Freudian Sheep some questions, here is their conversation….
You told me before that when you started up the Freudian sheep you went through a copy of the SOS booklet to search for artists. What year was that and how many artists did you start with?
We began in late 2013 with an exhibition that ran from mid-December ‘til the end of January. Not being Suffolk people ourselves (we’re from north Essex) and thus lacking a little knowledge of the county-wide art scene, we figured that trawling the Internet would be a good way to find the kind of artists we felt were right to launch with. As it transpired, after finding the SOS website and the list of artists there (not in the booklet), we were able to find quite a few that we then went on to invite to take part.
Our first exhibition was entitled ‘Counting Sheep’ and was basically that! We have always considered artists we work with to be a part of our creative flock, and thus we were literally finding out how many ‘Sheep’ there were out there. We offered the first exhibition free (with our now customary 25% commission) and emailed each artist with details in the hope that they’d participate. Despite our combined time working creatively together and apart running to many years, we still had to prove ourselves as gallery owners.
Exhibition number one had the following artists involved – not all from SOS by any means:-
Adrian Rumbles, Anna Boon, Belinda King, Anthea Eames, Craig Hudson, Dawn Hall, Elizabeth
James, Emma Johnson, Emma Withers, Eve Brinkley-Whittington, Jamie Limond, Ken Kempley,
Larain Briggs, Loisjoy Thurstun, Mark Ward, Nicola Atchley, Pam Winbolt, Patricia Colyer, Rhonda Whitehead, Stephanie Stow, Stuart A. Green, Val Jones, Robin Warnes, Jason Haye, and ourselves.
I’ve tried hard to recall who were members of what at that time – as there are artists from Asylum Studios, Cuckoo Farm, 49 & Rising etc. there too; and may have been a part of SOS at that time. I know that Liz James has now moved and has opened a gallery on the North Norfolk Coast since then. So I guess there were a few – but there have been more since.
Can you give me a rough number of SOS artists who have shown work at the Sheep?
Good Lord! Erm … around 20. Of those, about 10 are regular exhibitors. We’d like more – and expect to go seeking new talent again very soon. We have over 70 associated artists from various parts of the region – but our home is Suffolk.
How would you each describe your own work?
My art has developed from the usual graphic/technical approach one would expect on leaving school to the more conceptual place I am with it today – via spells at art school in the early 80s and more recently. Originally, my plan was to study to be a Graphic Designer (in the old hand-drawing way), but my early lecturers insisted (and they literally did insist!) that I should study Fine Art instead, due to the concepts I kept throwing their way, and the more Fine Art based technical pencil skills I had. I blame them entirely for years of not making any money!
I had (and still have) a love of the collage/assemblage work of Picasso, Schwitters, Tàpies, etc. and over the years picked-up influences from David Nash, Andy Goldsworthy, The Boyle Family, Nicola Hicks, Ed Keinholz, Yves Klein and others where that & my 3d work were concerned. I never expected to be a painter, although I have always painted. I prefer the hard point of things you draw with.
In painting, I was naturally drawn to stained-glass windows as a point of reference. I’d quite fancied being a maker of stained glass windows for at least 10 years from the 80s through to the 90s – but my imagination called for much more than my funds could ever achieve, so I instead developed a style of painting based on a technique known as ‘Cloissonism’ (from the Post Impressionists). Basically, I was semi-abstracting a variety of rural scenes from pastoral England and a few other themes, using fairly bright colours – but at that time not fully saturated (always with a good touch of white), and using Prussian Blue as a way to define evermore contained areas which eventually evolved into squares in later years.
That rather brings me to where I am with painting. My current and ongoing series ‘TRANSMISSIONS’ began in 2013. It’s based on digital television signal disturbance glitches. I’d been annoyed & delighted in equal measure by our terrible tv reception at that particular time and began to see the beauty in it, and the potential to develop it further. I worked out a technique to film the television screen during the worst of these glitchy spells and further enhance and morph it via film software. My TRANSMISSIONS series of paintings are the next stage of that process the paintings derived from the films I made from ‘happy accidents’ on the tv screen.
I now also take photographs which I deliberately alter using ‘happy accidents’ occurring during changes made by using the film-making software. I have begun to focus more on those as my new painting direction – and I’ve brought into it my love of collage by pasting various metal leaf into each composition. For me, it’s a bit of a return to the glorious early days of 20th century Modern Art (where I’m more at home) – Gustav Klimt, Paul Klee – I don’t think we should be finished with that, any more than I think we should be finished with landscape/portrait painting.
My paintings today have abandoned Cloissonism, and are now more colour saturated – but are still very much colourful little squares. As for my sculpture/assemblage/collage – I have grouped it together under the fairly suitable heading of ‘GRUNGE’, as I tend to be favouring the enhancement of objects we may find and reinventing them as art (with a twist of humour). And then there are my copper pipe clocks … but that’s another story.
I am one of those artists who has to make art even if no one ever sees it. I’ve been doing that and throwing much of it away (after photographing it) for over 30 years. I still do that, to some extent. Nothing should ever be that precious. I have the honour of being an artist who sold a brick (with a little added artistry, of course!). I do like people buying my art so I don’t destroy it!
Eleanor May’s art is more in tune with the traditions of painting. She’s not spent quite as much time in art school as me (2 years as opposed to over 5), so she hasn’t been as manipulated by the pesky push for overt minimal conceptualism and/or stripping back everything to basics.
Her love of the pure art of painting comes from life itself. Whilst she is alive, she has to paint. Eleanor began her creative adult life with the study of Textiles at college, and then went on to become a highly skilled restorer of fine Persian carpets with a well-respected Long Melford company. She developed her painting skills and became a painter of trompe l’oeil murals in homes throughout the country.
Realism – or ‘trick of the eye’ has always been there in her work; but although she is very capable of photo realism, she has moved away from that to a more expressive place in the past couple of years. Her combined love of nature/the natural environment with her need to expressively depict its calm or rage has carried her on a path to now largely concentrating on colourful scenes of rural idyll, and stormy seas. There’s a fair bit of meaning tied-up in her seemingly gentle art. There always has been where Eleanor’s concerned. Her messages are never meant to be obvious. The art sits there on the wall doing the job it was designed for – and that is what she enjoys most. Pure art.
Which was your favourite show and why?
That’s a hard one, as I’ve actually liked all of our exhibitions for very different reasons. They’ve been themed to be different each time, even though many of the artists are often the same. I suppose I’d always say that the last one we did was the best. I enjoyed our ‘Alternative Ipswich Museum’ theme from November last year, as it was great to see how the artists worked with the idea of making ‘museum exhibits’ based on their own concept of the town. It’s one I’d happily do again. We’re also enjoying the change that Borin Van Loon’s Retrospective has brought to us this month. It’s been nice to see how another person uses the space. He hung the whole show himself – it’s the first time we’ve not taken any part in curation/hang. It’s given us time to focus on the future too.
In what ways are you working for the sheep artists beyond the gallery?
We’ve been 100% dedicated from day one to the promotion of art and artists to a much wider audience than the one that a traditional gallery provides. We also want to help artists to avoid the endless circle of ‘community art projects’ that promise so much and indeed often serve a community well, but aren’t always that useful to artists trying to develop their careers, or indeed just trying to earn a living. Too many artists abandon art due to financial pressures – we want to help a few to avoid that. It’s not easy. Having a gallery isn’t enough, and we’ve long known that. That’s why we’ve been developing our ‘Art for Business Scheme’. It’s a way for artists we work with to have their art seen and for sale in places where an unconventional art audience will actually get to see them. Kerseys Solicitors are currently staging our first commission – themed ‘Art of the Law’.
Oh – and we network whenever & wherever we can, and speak about the artists we work with.
Networking in real life & virtually is how it’s done these days.
Do you have any exciting plans for the future?
Next year, our project goes up a notch. Our themed exhibitions at the gallery will be occupation related, and we’ll be actively inviting workers from those fields to the exhibitions each time in order to create a wider audience for our artists. As time progresses, we hope to build a non-conventional art audience that will go out of their way to visit art exhibitions wherever they are. Our Art for Business Scheme is designed to be financially fair to artists, to the businesses, and to us. We think it’ll work – but we’re actively seeking grant aid at present to put some wind in the sails. It’s very difficult to proceed with limited funds.
How can SOS artists get involved with the gallery?
SOS artists can visit our website: www.freudiansheep.co.uk to find out more about us, see if they think they’d like to be involved, and then perhaps make the first steps to becoming a ‘Sheep’. We’re quite informal, but we are a commercial gallery and have to consider what people might be excited to see.
We merely require 3 jpegs of art that represents the artist (or links to where we can find it), and a bit of a short art bio if possible and once we’re happy that the art suits our place and that the artist is happy with our simple terms, the artist is then free to respond to any of our calls for artists.
What’s your next show and why should people visit?
The next show is ‘TIME & TIDE’ and promises to be another corker! There’ll be around 20 artists exploring either or both of those themes, and one-or-two working off-theme in a separate part of the gallery (Saul Timothy’s fantastically colourful fantasy art includes a bit of Alice in Wonderland). For the main theme, we’ve got a few SOS artists involved already – Fabiana Di Mascio, Emma Garnham, Deborah Burrow, Rebecca Mansbridge, and Val Jones – along with some great art from some of our other regulars. We’re also putting the word out to specialist sea painters in the hope that they’ll jump aboard for this one. Eleanor’s staging a large display of her new ‘ALL AT SEA’ paintings of dramatic waves and shores to run alongside it all.
As ever, it’ll open with an ‘opening event’ to which everyone is welcome. It’ll be on Saturday 11th July from 3-6pm. Our place is much bigger than people think it is, so please do come along and be surprised. Our opening events are always well attended and thoroughly well received – and many of the artists attend. The exhibition details are on our website. Our Facebook page is useful for seeing what’s going-on too: www.facebook.com/freudiansheep.
Not forgetting that we have an SOS members only exhibition being curated by Val Jones – that’s coming-up in October this year.