Category Archives: Guernsey

The Readerswives sharpen their weapons…

I write from a cosy cafe in Bristol where I await this month’s installment of the Weapon of Choice.

A live painting show that tours pubs and bars of Bristol and beyond, the WOC is an initiative kick-started by Cheba (a graff artist who has even graced the shores of Guernsey) a year ago. On Tuesday night, Readerswives Collective old-timers Dred and Rost will be holding their own at Mr Wolfs, one of the city’s top live-music venues.

Paint pens poised, everyone. It’s going to be good.

£3 entry, see http://www.myspace.com/mrwolfsbar

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Drawing in the Community

(Published in the Guernsey Globe today)

Art enthusiasts of all ages got creative last Thursday night at Trinity Square’s Centre Fold Gallery as part of an international drawing festival.

The gallery joined venues across the UK and Europe by holding a public doodle session as part of The Big Draw event. It’s an initiative launched by the independent charity, The Campaign for Drawing, and takes place every October. More than 1000 galleries, museums and libraries are getting involved by organising their own Big Draw events this month.

 

Local artist Dred gets his draw on

Local artist Dred gets his draw on

 

Kat Mather, one of the four artists who run the gallery, says that the Centre Fold Gallery always strives to get involved in new projects. ‘Drawing is therapeutic and events like this bring communities together. The turnout was fairly small, but we weren’t too disappointed because it meant the atmosphere was friendly and intimate.’

The Big Draw has been running for nine years, and this is the second time it has taken place in Guernsey. The Centre Fold Gallery opened its doors at 6.30pm, and welcomed around 15 people over the course of the evening. Beginners drew alongside practiced artists, using a variety of materials provided free of charge by the gallery.

The youngest artist to grace the event was Eugene Dowdney, age 7. ‘I like drawing planes, trains and submarines, and everything to do with transport,’ said Eugene, as he added the finishing touches to a detailed illustration of a British Airways jet.

 

Eugene Dowdney and his dope drawing

Eugene Dowdney and his dope drawing

 

Eugene worked next to Dred, an artist whose show at the Centre Fold last month featured intricate pen drawings of space wars. ‘Eugene has a very vivid imagination, and pays real attention to detail,’ said Dred. ‘He’s obviously very bright and talented.’

The Big Draw evening is just one of many cultural events staged at the gallery in recent months. Their Bubblegum Bangers Rally show, complete with a giant Scalextric track, is still open to the public at evenings and weekends. 

Visit the Big Draw webpage: http://www.campaignfordrawing.org/bigdraw/ 

Foxy Paw

The Race Is On…

(Published in The Guernsey Globe, Wednesday 22nd October)

On Friday night, the Centre Fold Gallery hosted a night of daredevil speeding for would-be joyriders, in the form of a huge Scalextric rally.

The Readerswives, the art and graphic design collective which runs Trinity Square’s gallery, has constructed an extensive toy-car racing circuit 34 metres long. It is made up of 105 pieces of the popular Scalextric track and forms art of an exhibition to celebrate the success of the Bubblegum Bangers Rally, which in late September raised more than £40,000 for the Mines Awareness Trust.

 

guaranteed fun

Scalextric: guaranteed fun

 

Anybody visiting the exhibition on Friday’s opening night could choose from six colourful cars and have a go, as well as enjoying a complimentary chilled beverage. Many punters tried their hand at the hairpin bends and hazardous chicanes of the racetrack, which winds through six cardboard countries, loosely mirroring the route of the Bubblegum Bangers’ European tour.

Guernsey’s toy car racers turned out in force. ‘We must have had about 40 people through the doors,’ said a spokesperson for Readerswives. ‘It was just a really light-hearted and fun way of commemorating the rally.’

The spokesperson also said there had been more passers-by peering in through the windows at that exhibition than there normally were during an opening evening. 

Newly appointed community arts development officer Andy Smith said it was a good example of ‘art disguised as fun’. He said it had been ‘wonderful to see people get involved in such an inclusive, creative activity.’

 

The Centre Fold Gallery, run by Readerswives

The Centre Fold Gallery, run by Readerswives

 

The exhibition is open till the 14th November, and members of the public are encouraged to go along and try their hand at racing. They can even take their own Scalextric cars. The Centre Fold Gallery is open every evening, as well as on Saturdays.

You can learn more about the Bubblegum Bangers Rally at http://www.bubblegumbangers.org, and more about The Centre Fold Gallery at http://www.centrefoldgallery.com. 

Foxy Paw

Nice Can!

It is the last surviving relic of Guernsey’s Norman ancestry, with a pedigree of nearly one thousand years. It’s the pride of every true Guernsey home, be it a granite cottage, a farmhouse, or the fancy manor of a feudal fief. Oh yes, it’s the Guernsey Can.

 

 

Check out those cans! Okay, so the joke's getting old already

Check out those cans!

 

Its function is now purely decorative, but it was used in industry as late as the beginning of the 20th Century. The design of the can has changed very little over the years. The functionality and ergonomics of the original can cannot be disputed. The traditional Guernsey Field Can was made from tin plate steel and was soldered on the outside. It was constructed from 10 or 11 individual pieces, depending on which one of the 17 different sizes was being made. The neck of the Guernsey Field Can has a proportionally larger circumference compared to the smaller sized table cans. The larger opening makes for a bigger target during milking, and means the neck is lower down the spherical body of the can, resulting in a lower more stable centre of gravity. The can is made steadier by three domed feet, which offer maximum stability on a grassy surface. The spherical shape of the can offers a handy fit between the maid’s legs during milking, whilst minimising the amount of milk slopping out of the top. The narrow opening means that the can has an advantage over a bucket as it is less prone to being tipped by stray cows’ feet.

These design features mean that, ergonomically, the Guernsey Can is incredibly strong. Rather like an egg, it can carry the maximum amount of liquid possible using the minimum of materials. The modern half pint can is constructed from just one 8.5 inch square of half millimeter copper. Although the can does not have a spout, its ingenious design means it will pour with the precision of a jug, and yet can be hermetically sealed.

 

 

A man and his can, some years ago

A man and his can, some years ago

 

The transition from the practical Guernsey Can to a decorative feature is a point of debate. Some believe that the combination of the introduction of new materials such as plastic together with the influx of tourism during the 1950’s played a big part in the shift. Some of the oldies out there might even remember that Guernsey was also keen to embrace the introduction of the Tetra Pak closely followed by the stylish milk bag.

All in all, the Guernsey Can is an amazing legacy of Guernsey tradition, combining efficiency with aesthetics. Yet surprisingly few Guerns are aware of the cans and their rich history. Well, consider yourself informed!

You can learn more about Guernsey Cans at www.guernseycans.co.uk

Rostone

XEROX Issue 3

No Island Is An Island

Tell someone you’re from Guernsey, and their reaction is one of mild pity. Small islands like ours are too often characterized as socially conservative backwaters, where those in the international art world fear to tread. However, noone can deny that the times have been a-changing. Galleries have been springing up all over the Old Quarter, and we’ve also seen the birth of Guernsey Arts Commission. Nevertheless, there is still more that could be done to develop Guernsey’s art scene.

At the recent Art and Islands Conference at Castle Cornet, this was the one item on the agenda. Important cultural figures from across the world gathered to discuss how islands could be successful settings for contemporary art.

 

Castle Cornet, Guernsey

Castle Cornet, Guernsey

 

Professor Godfrey Baldacchino (Research Chair in Island Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island) spoke about the inferiority complex often developed by islanders. This particularly applies to Guernsey: we might talk proudly of our butter, beanjar and beaches, but this often conceals a deeper feeling that we are a provincial backwater. However, the supposedly ‘limiting’ characteristics of island life should not be seen as a disadvantage. Islands are often run by independent jurisdictions, and islanders often become set in ways that outsiders might see as eccentric; Baldacchino argues that island life naturally produces a different type of person from life on a continent, in the same way as evolution produces uniquely adapted species in isolated places.

The popular fascination of islands as sites of myth and exoticism actually gives them a particular attraction to creative types, which Richard Florida has dubbed a ‘high bohemian index’. Mervyn Peake, Antony Gormley, Victor Hugo and Auguste Renoir have all found creative inspiration in Guernsey’s unique landscape. Indeed, the island has been a creative hotbed since prehistoric times: in the first lecture of the conference, Professor Colin Renfrew declared that the Castel Church menhir-statue is one of the earliest examples of figurative sculpture in the British Isles. He also reminded islanders that some of the earliest architectural remains in Europe can be found at the Les Fouaillages site in the Vale. These are attractions for any discerning art tourist, but the conference revealed that Guernsey has the potential for countless new contemporary arts projects.

 

Antony Gormley at the Castle for the conference

Antony Gormley at the Castle for the conference

 

In today’s expanding art world, new fairs, projects and biennials open each year in seemingly unlikely places. Over the course of the event, speakers discussed inspiring projects that have achieved success in far-flung and unexpected locations. Maaretta Jaakuri’s Artscape Nordland placed contemporary sculptures across one of the most remote provinces of Norway. Speakers also discussed Estuaire, a French biennial project in the Loire valley where artworks were installed along the river from Nantes to St Nazaire.

Nick Ewbank’s presentation on the current cultural development of Folkestone was perhaps most pertinent to Guernsey’s situation. In this Kent town, described by Ewbank as a ‘metaphorical island’, a committee has taken several steps. They have launched a triennial, opened an academy specialising in arts and European culture, and subsidised the development of a creative quarter in the old town.

Inspiring stuff, but it’s all much easier to sit back and imagine than to carry out. Funding seems to be one of the major preventative issues. A ‘percent for culture’ idea, where one percent of all financial transaction fees were given to cultural projects, was suggested. The Irish have solved the problem by offering tax incentives for writers and artists. Natalie Melton from Arts and Business focussed on the mutual benefits that can be reaped from businesses’ sponsorship of art initiatives, something that should surely be encouraged in Guernsey. Although they were invited, barely any representatives from Guernsey’s financial sector attended the conference, a sign that they might still require some convincing.

 

Dr Ihor Holubizky, a speaker from the conference, visits the Little Chapel

Dr Ihor Holubizky, a speaker from the conference, visits the Little Chapel

 

In today’s expanding cultural milieu, there is no reason why small islands like Guernsey cannot assert themselves in the domain of international contemporary art projects. There are challenges to overcome, not least the issue of facilitating communication between benefactors and stakeholders. But after spending two days immersed in optimistic discussions of culture and its place in island society, I’m feeling pretty excited about the future of art on our funny little outcrop of rock. 

This is only the tip of the archipelago – check out these websites for more on art and islands:

www.arts.ggwww.estuaire.infowww.folkestonetriennial.org.ukwww.skulpturlandskap.nowww.islandstudies.ca

Lady Muck

XEROX Issue 3