On Friday 22 June until Wednesday 11 July, Bar Lane Studios is to house a new and exciting collaboration set to impress. With an artistic response to architectural spaces and that of compositionally marvelous photography, this exhibition seems to be a fresh and intriguing perspective which is somewhat unchartered territory in the art world.
Susanne Davies is an Installation artist currently working in the medium of thread. Her installations respond to architectural spaces which, being both site responsive and site specific, are metamorphic in their nature. Jack Cook is a Fine Art photographer highly enthralled into dissecting static architectural structures where his aim is to create images that offer an alternative perspective on all that surrounds us. It sounds to me like the perfect collaboration.
Clare Nattress: – By identifying a common thread running through both your practices do you think it has helped manifest such a successful work?
Susanne Davies: – It is an unusual collaboration but it started off as Jack photographing my work as documentation. Inevitably he brought something else to the table, the tiniest intricate details to the work. Seeing an architectural space and almost turning it upside down, in this respect with photography. I feel we share a similar view on architecture if you like.
In this exhibition the artist’s have teamed up to explore the interdisciplinary exchange of two diverse practices, the result, a genuine exchange of ideas where differing viewpoints co-exist, pushing the parameters of one another’s boundaries and comfort zones. The work showcased, 15,000m in 3:2 reflects the collaborative conversation between both Davies and Cook which has resulted in some rewarding surprises along the way.
C.N: – How has this collaboration developed your practice? Considering that you’ve exhibited here at Bar Lane three times before, how does one approach the space again?
S. D: – If it was a solo show, I’d find it extremely difficult to put a new piece of work here given the times I’ve responded to this space previously, but with it being a collaboration and the fact that the photographs take precedence, I’ve taken my guide from the images. In terms of practice, it has given me a little bit of insight into how people view my work, seeing my work in such an intimate way with another creative input. It enables me to step back from my work and I feel more detached from the installation, in this case being the images in this show, because from that emerges something in its own right.
Jack Cook: – In essence the outcome of any artistic collaboration is the sum of absolutely everything shared between the artists’. Every conversation, every question, every exploration, every suggestion and every element of the relationship has implications upon the work produced, thus making the collaboration itself as important as the outcome.
Cook’s voyeuristic view of the work represents his visual experience of documentation. Through the framing of the camera lens using only digital landscape photography, impressively unedited, allows for intuitive reactive decisions through experience. Of course, by photographing what is of personal interest and invariably photographing what the eye cannot see we appreciate factors such as lighting which takes an important roll, both the natural and the artificial as well as composition and technique.
With respect to the collaboration, neither the work nor the photograph usurps the other but is a mutual dialogue between both artists. What is important in collaboration which we can see here is, the photographs hold an identity in their own right, with the hierarchical relationship between practice and document having been removed. The document no longer being subservient to the work, and the assumption that the work is the only place that the creative act takes place, thus constructing an artistic identity.
C.N: – What is important about artistic collaboration itself? I mean, both artists actually working together rather than coming up with something independently and ‘putting’ it together?
S.D: – I love working collaboratively and I think that instead of two simultaneous pieces of work you have the opportunity to end up with something more unified. We have worked together to develop something that neither of us could have done separately, which is why I feel strongly that it’s not documentation and has its own artistic identity coming from two diverse practices.
Davies graduated from York St John in 2010 and has developed her practice considerably due to the nature of her work being both site responsive and site specific. The linear use of material and the repetitive labour involved connect to notions of the feminine, domestic and industrial histories both personal and collective.
Notions of time, space and movement are integral throughout her work, from the hours demanded by its production to that spent navigating the space. Her work holds an empathy for site and engages the viewer in the re-ordering of space. The material substance of her work makes up an atmosphere which embodies differing properties, Davies has said with regard to this ‘it’s not about the work, but the conversation with place’.
J.C: – Working collaboratively to produce works which represent the fruition of the collaboration itself offers each participant the chance to go beyond what they would otherwise produce independently. In the dialogue between the collaborating artists’ strands of ideas are sparked and manifested, ideas which sometimes aren’t even considered when working independently. For me the whole practice of working collaboratively catalyses and intensifies the creative process and almost offers the individuals a departure from their orthodox way creative practice. Each participant removes the other from their comfort zone and challenges them to challenge themselves to push the boundaries of their own practice. For me it is this ‘unsettled dynamic that causes artistic collaborations to produce such compelling results.
C.N: – How long has the work taken to produce? And what has been your timeliest commission yet?
S.D – The timeliest piece of work to date is the York Council HQ Offices commission. I was told I had the commission in August 2011 and it is still in progress, however, I think it needed to be as it is quite a complex journey for me working with so many different professionals to achieve the desired results of everyone involved. All in all it has been a fantastic experience and I’ve learnt such a lot from it and the people involved.
C.N: – and the work here at Bar Lane?
S.D – Jack and I have been working on this project since the end of last year off and on obviously. We’ve calculated the amount of threads used when producing the images, by this I mean the total amount of metres across the various installations I have done which Jack has photographed. This was around 15,000 metres. In this installation there is roughly 4000 metres which is relatively small as in the past I’ve used 22,000 metres solely in one piece.
Davies is currently working as a commissioned artist at the new Council Head Quarters York, which opens this year in the brand new West Offices building at Station Rise. Recently, she has also completed a commission at the Helmshore Textile Mill Museum in Rossendale, Lancashire, Hugo Boss Launch at the New Hugo Boss store in Cathedral Street, Manchester and her work was a part of Illuminating York 2011 which is still in situ at ‘Creative Glass’ Back Swinegate, York.
Like Davies, Cook also graduated from York St John University in 2010 and is currently situated in his hometown of Whitby. Based there, he continues to produce art and photography using the resources at his disposal. Since finishing the course in May 2010 he has had some major solo shows, one of which was the result of winning the Artspace award as part of the York St John Create 10 exhibition. This award granted one student from the course the opportunity to put on a solo show at York’s Artspace gallery (now known as ‘According to McGee’)
C.N: – What advice would you give to artists graduating from University whom are trying to develop as a working practitioner?
S.D: – In my case I will say that the internship at Bar Lane Studios was a great help, some of the best advice I’ve been given, both artistically and professionally, is to let things happen organically and by this I feel I have more time to absorb the learning process and therefore bring more to each new project. I would also advice artists to persevere, things don’t happen over night and it will take time. Don’t worry if a proposal has been rejected but to look at that as a learning experience in itself.
Cook also isn’t shy to collaboration, one of his latest exhibitions Ctrl X Ctrl V with fellow artist Tom Hodgson was sited in Cafe 68, York, but Cook has also exhibited in his home town of Whitby in the Grosmont Gallery with his analogue treats; The Whitby Characters Photographic Series.
Photography is only one of the mediums Cook works in, however his practice is generally quite diverse. With regard to his photography he experiments with both analogue and digital and captures whatever interests and inspires him. In the past it has been the local characters previously mentioned and stunning abstract compositions dissecting static architectural structures.
Here we have a re-ording, re-intervention of space captured through a lens and through our own experience.
The exhibition ends with an Art Walk organised by York Art Gallery on 11 July at 5.30pm – 7.30pm, the walk will include a look at current exhibition at St Mary’s, The New School House Gallery, According to McGee and Bar Lane Studios. More information can be found on the York Art Gallery website. On the last stop, the artists will be present at Bar Lane Studios to talk about the work.