Over the summer we were set the task of responding to two separate exhibitions. Aside from the Georgia O’Keeffe retrospective at the Tate Modern which I had already planned, there were a couple of small exhibitions in Brighton I was interested in. Unfortunately I made the mistake of travelling down on a Monday, when it turns out that Every. Single. Exhibition. Was. Closed.
After a few hours trekking around Brighton and far more than a few closed signs, I finally gave up on my hunt for exhibitions and decided to enjoy the nice weather and city. Of course as soon as I decided this I came across a small exhibition in the Brighton Fishing Quarter Gallery right on the beach. The exhibition was run by JFK Turner, on his work made entirely from found materials.
It was a lovely experience to be able to chat to the artist himself as they display their work, as you obviously can’t do this at shows such as an O’Keefe retrospective. Turner explained that he only uses materials that 1. are found, 2. that he wouldn’t be able to find in an art supply store, or 3. that were designs of his own inspired by the geometry of architecture in Manchester. This last aspect of his work especially appealed to me since in Leeds I am surrounded by the juxtaposition of Brutalist and classical architecture, often in close proximity, so the bold geometric structures stand starkly out against the more refined classical buildings. Nothing exemplifies this more than Leeds University itself when just a few steps will take you from the Art Deco Parkinson Building to the Brutalist Roger Stevens Building.
Turner explained that imposing these restrictions on his art allows him to be more creative and pursue his art without becoming overwhelmed; a concept I described in my first blog post. If he needs to use paint, he’ll use household paint rather than artists’ paint. He uses materials such as wood from old furniture as a canvas and tools like nails and hammers to fix material over the base rather than stretching canvas. It reminded me of learning about rationing when I was younger, and how artists would use discarded bit of wood, or anything they could get their hands on in order to keep on with their practice. Interestingly enough, it seems to be an inversion of Turner’s aims, as he aims to use the materials that the populace discards in the loss of the ‘make do and mend’ attitude, whereas the main ethos of the time was not to waste a thing and mend everything.
Turner describes his products as ‘objects’ rather than paintings, and the materiality is apparent in each and every object that was on display. Rather than reading the content of each object, they seem to project the process of their construction in every aspect. Each nail or folded piece of material, and discarded item fixed to the surface speaks of the physicality involved in piecing it together, making them almost sculptural.
These collages appealed to me, but the works I decided to respond to were the compositions of his found objects. This is because at the time I was very much in the mindset of 2D output and traditional media like photography. I decided to put my interest in colour to good use and theme my compositions this way, utilising photographs and objects found around the house.