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Dale Adcock in Conversation with James Cahill at TJ Boulting.


9 Feb - 2018

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The following text is a public talk that took place on the 3rd April 2013 at TJ Boulting between the artist Dale Adock and writer James Cahill. The talk discussed the Dale Adock’s practice and the work  from his first solo show at TJ Boulting, ‘Ratio’.

Hannah Watson – Hello, welcome everyone to TJ Boulting. I am very happy to present tonight’s talk, which is with the artist Dale Adcock talking about his solo show Ratio. He will be talking to James Cahill who is a writer on contemporary art and I will leave it to them!
James Cahill – Good evening everybody, well Dale I think it will make most sense if we talk about these paintings in turn because even though they have certain stylistic attributes in common they are also very singular against one to the next. So if, for example, we begin with this, this took a few years to produce this portrait of a man and woman.
Dale Adcock – Well the whole show has taken about 3 years maybe, those a lot less maybe like 5 months.
J – This piece here titled ‘A Portrait of a Man and a Woman’, it is interesting because it has a very specific point of reference, or point of genesis, which was a painting you saw in the Sainsbury wing of the National Gallery, can you say a little bit about that?
D – Yeah, sure. If you walk into the Sainsbury wing of the National Gallery and go up the stairs, turn left then go all the way down to the room in the back where the Arnolfini marriage is, if you ignore that and then look right there is a double portrait by Robert Campin, we were there the other day it was 14…
J – 1435 I think
D – I was captivated or haunted by these paintings. I think I always knew that I wanted to make something about these paintings. I think its something about you completing like a triangular way of looking, the man is looking over the shoulder and you are looking at him and vice versa. I think I made drawings of these paintings. I then imagined what it would be like to extrapolate the drawing or take the drawing out of the page, make a lozenge out of it, balance it in a shallow space and the paintings kind of came from there. All the works in this show are mediated by my imagination. I don’t use photographs or anything like that.
J – I think it’s interesting that you don’t refer to other models in your studio or photos. You don’t have any particular reference when you are working it is, in a sense, unmediated in that respect. It sort of derives straight from your imagination which I think is quite unusual in contemporary painting not to have…
D – Yeah maybe, I am not sure if it is or not its just kind of the way that things have worked out.
J – and that idea you mentioned just now about a triangulated viewing is a very interesting one in Campin’s work but then also in the work of Jan Van Eyck, his contemporary. In the Arnolfini wedding you have this idea of the circular mirror compressing and then reflecting back space in a way that sort of tries to give you a 360 degree view. This is of course something painting can never literally do but at the same time you seem to be exploring in these bulging, convex, mask-like shapes. The idea was Cubism really, of seeing it all at once.
D – Yeah, yeah all of that. No that was good I certainly can’t say it any better.
J – What about the oval shape, because I don’t think Campaign’s work was oval. How did that come about?
D – No, no they are small and rectangular, it’s…yeah I think sometimes artists can be beautifully pragmatic. The ovals were in my studio for a long time, maybe about a year. I thought they would make a work together. I think the oval really lends itself to portraiture especially and Cubism. You find a few Cubist painting which are ovals because you get rid of the problem of the corners, you can just start in the middle and work out. It just lends itself perfectly to the idea of…
J – the idea of portraiture is an interesting idea because in most contexts a portrait is of known person or at least it can be sort of theorised who a portrait might be if it is an old painting…
D – I love the Campin because you don’t know who the sitters are its just some man and the woman…
J – I like the idea that they become like stereotypes
D – and the….yeah the stereotypes and stuff I find interesting. Interesting or not before these paintings I made two paintings that are much larger than these which were about making two things look very similar which were different. Then I started these and I tried to make them different, like the male and the female and the more the more I tried to make them different the more similar they became…like echoing each other in the stripes and the general instruction.
J – I suppose in that way you are reflecting something portraiture always was and historically always ends up doing, which is adopting, rounding back to a formula or casting things in a fairly paradigmatic light. I mean it is interesting that these are anonymous and stylised to the extent that they are. They are very much like masks rather than anything else. When I looked at these it makes me think that however penetrating a portrait is ever thought to be it is only ever a facade or a mask and you seem to have reflected that quite well here.
D – Yeah, I think the emptiness came as a result of imagining and making a drawing and then folding the paper. I mean if you take a paper and fold it it would be empty. That is why the eyes are black and empty, because it would be empty and I think as soon as I painted the eyes out they looked a lot like urns or chess pieces and it just felt right. I have never made two paintings that were so easy. They were just dying to be made. It was beautiful the whole thing. Well I think it was anyway, that’s the story that I am telling myself today. I am not sure if that was real, I am not the best person to ask.
J – I think the results are superb and I think one thing I would like to mention again is how architectural these are, I mean on the one hand they are like folded paper origami but they are also jutting forms, diagonals and rectilinear shapes, they are very architectural and I think this relates to the other paintings as well. Can everyone see the painting behind us sufficiently well? This is called Validator, and this, rather like the one there, has a strong architectural element. Particularly from here its redolent of post-modern architectural folly as you might see in the MI6 building or even a James Bond film representation of Ancient Egypt it has that sort of architectural folly element about it.
D – Yeah definitely, I think the paintings have become more interesting in form and volume over the last few years. Starting in 2008/9, I found it really challenging to make something three-dimensional; they are not fully three-dimensional. I think I found that fascinating.
J – You don’t make sculpture do you? Yourself?
D – No, no I am completely two dimensional in my work, in my paintings and drawings. I think…I saw a painting or a reproduction of Picasso’s bathers, two heavy figures running across a beach. I thought this was an enormous painting and then we went to the Picasso museum and its tiny! But it was fascinating that the figures could have so much volume and I think in a similar trip we saw Rogier van der Weyden’s ‘Deposition’ which…these figures are also quite volumetric, taking that body off of the cross but in a really shallow space.
J – and van der Weyden is of the same era as Campin and Van Eyck
D – I think Rogier van der Weyden was Campin’s teacher or the other way round, I am not totally sure….but I think that’s the idea of putting the figures in a very shallow space. The figures are pushed towards you so you have to deal with this quite emotional construct, I thought it was fascinating. That is why I like the idea of putting an object in a very shallow space so you have to deal with it because it is pushed in your face a little bit. It is not an impassive painting. It’s not advertising.
J – Lets talk about the title of this one, ‘Validator’. Am I right in saying that you devised that title first and then the picture afterwards, sort of validating your own title with what you then produced.
D – I think the genesis of this painting was talking to my friends who were artists or musicians and also hearing myself talk about work. It sounded like validation, I am validating myself to make this work. One of the good things about being an artist is that you can embody that and you can make that kind of Freudian parental monster. I think that when I imagined what that figure would be it was a kind of cross between Blake’s Newton, The Aztec God of Death and I think the Roman God Janus, a face looking forwards and backwards.
J – and Blake’s Newton, by the way, is a very deliberate and important point of reference here with these compasses which seem to form part of this totemic figure, they are a sort of quotation, for want of a better word, from William Blake’s Prince showing Isaac Newton planting a set of compasses over some scrolls he has laid out. The whole symbol of rational, scientific, validating kind of…
D – I find it fascinating the way Blake in…embodied different ideas in different people like Urizen the architect within Blakeian mythology and his kind of counterpart in the fracturing of the god head was Los which is the sun spelt backwards and he is the forger, that’s why you have the head and the hand. The head thinking, the rational and the hand hammering, that’s why you have the hammer in the bottom of the painting. It’s like you because you put it all together and it is the whole thing it is inseparable…just like the paint from the canvas…
J – To go back to what you were saying before about trying to thrust something into the space that very much applies to this piece over here called ‘Tomb’, just thinking back to when I have spoken to you before about this piece it has a number of points of derivation, I think. Obviously, when we look at this the first thing people will think of is Minimalist sculpture and Donald Judd but it also had a less likely provenance didn’t it? Weren’t you interested in a small maquette you came across at the V&A?
D – I came across a small waxwork maquette at the V&A years ago. It caught my eye in a sea of small sculpture. I looked at the tag and it was a slave by Michelangelo, a maquette that he made while he was thinking about doing a figure for Julius II Tomb. It was going to be a huge sculptural project which was then scaled down in ambition. I think as soon as I found that out I knew that I wanted to make a painting. I wanted to make my own tomb from that. When I imagined my own Tomb I saw a kind of a totemic structure of cases with heads in, cases with bodies and cases with heads and bodies and you can build the structure out of this sort of modular device. I think that when I imagined that I imagined it turning like a clock or a grinder. That is why the heads are facing in different ways, it’s turning clockwise. They were just going to be heads and then I realised that the heads were going to be psychopomps, because when you die you are going to arrive at a place you have never been before so I thought it would be handy for somebody to be there to show you around.
J – Just to explain this idea of a psychopomp is an ancient Greek….
D – I think it is a Greek word, I think the literal translation means usher of the soul
J – The God Hermes in some instances was known as Hermes phychopompous, as in Hermes the one who will guide you from the world of the living to the after life. It seems to me almost beautifully perverse that you have embedded some of these very poetic, arcane, esoteric references and there are, of course, plenty of others which we can perhaps get onto. The interesting figure of this Donald Judd style sculpture, when you think about minimalism being a kind of non-referential materialist sculpture, yet you have embedded it with symbolic references.
Dale – Yeah…
J – What are some of the others? You have one at the bottom there which I think is a reference to Moby Dick? Is that right? The sperm whale?
D – Yeah, It works in a way…I can only remember the Mexican, the Lord of Mictlan is the Aztec God of death, at the top, or Smiley as he was known to his friends. You see Egyptian psychopomp, Hermes the Greek and Mercury and then it becomes more inventive you have the idea of the grinder, second from bottom and then the sperm whale at the bottom. When I imagined the structure turning I imagined it like a grinder like literally the bodies are entropically degrading as the painting goes down. You have flesh and then fleshy tendon, and then muscle and tendon and then bone and then you see the bone is being kind of sucked back into the painting, kind of redispersed into the universe as it were….yeah…this painting took a very long time to make and I could talk for a very long time about it. I could go on about Osiris and Isis, kind of the male and female figures in the casket that also turn and degrade as well. There is sort of a creation myth within Egyptology about his death and resurrection and how he became Lord of the underworld.
J – before we depart from some of the thematic references here one of the stories as well which I think you mentioned is compressed within this, was that of the noble savage Queequeg in Moby Dick, is this right he sort of carves designs onto a wooden coffin.
D – It’s my favourite coffin story and my favourite tattooing story…I think about half way through Moby Dick Queequeg, who is the nobel savage in the book, becomes very ill and it looks like he is going to die and then he decides…when it looks like he is going to die they ask him if he would like anything and he says could you make me a death canoe and he means like a coffin. So the carpenter on the ship makes him a coffin, puts it next to him and Queequeg lays in it and tries it out to make sure it is the right height. He then goes back to his sick bed and remembers that he has some business to do back in town because his working on his project car that the last thing to do is to put dog car seat covers on it to make it outstanding. Much to the annoyance of Captain Ahab who sees something in that that he doesn’t know about. In Queequeg’s convalescence he copies his tattoos that are on his body onto the coffin, the tattoos on Queequeg’s body were tattooed on him wherever he grew up on the island that he grew up by a prophet of his land. I think the fascinating thing about the book is that he doesn’t know what is tattooed on his body because someone else did it and didn’t tell him why so he is copying what is on his body back onto the coffin…you see…Yates put it beautifully he said you can embody truth but never know it, incredible beautiful thing to say.
J – In a sense it seems a very appropriate metaphor for painting itself in some respect, whether its portraiture or paintings of any kind as it cannot really escape its own paradigm, which is the beauty but also the bane of it. It will always need to some extent reference its own traditions and precedence. Which is the same idea of translating something existing on your body whether or not you immediately understand it. It’s like learning at school in another sense. That idea links quite nicely back to this and that idea of trying to validate things. Its like a Latin motto on a building as sort of a means of validation and I think also tattoos have Latin on them in the same sense. What are your feelings about the medium you use, you mention you don’t use sculpture. People sometimes say I paint because it does things that nothing else can do is that true in your sense? Does painting sort of articulate what I just described more than anything else, this idea of reaching back into the past and compressing everything together, collapsing all these presidents together and saying something with that?
D – I am not sure, I am not sure…that is a lot of questions. I am not sure, maybe I will take one…I can’t make something that is not self-conscious. I can’t make something that is not self-conscious of its past of its history, of its medium and a lot of that is very conscious, I cannot make something like that for instance and not be very conscious of Cubism and all these things. I am also very conscious that I can only speak about these things like I can only mix Robert Campin and Donald Judd right now, I couldn’t have done that in the 15C. I think that is something that painting does very well. I told myself that I wouldn’t make any generalisation, that was a massive generalisation!
J – Sometimes painting itself…a lot of contemporary painting is trying to strike at something very generalised. Let me ask you about your drawings, as I think something we should do en masse is go next door and look at your works on paper, but before we do, perhaps it is useful to say that your drawings are not studies in the conventional sense or are they?
D – Yeah definitely, the drawings are not a study for the paintings it is much more of a fluid relationship. Some of the drawings do turn out to be studies like this, there are some drawings that refer directly to the paintings because I was thinking about them at the time and some are observations and…yeah you’ll see.
J – Well, before we do that does anyone have any particular questions about Dale’s work or should we all go…
Audience Member – I would like to ask what the backgrounds mean to you? They are quite, the stories you were telling the myths are quite earthy and yet the backdrops are nowhere in particular. It doesn’t want to be rooted somehow, they are all kind of a non-space and I wanted to know what you thought about that.
D – I would go back to van der Weyden I think it is the shallowness of the space. It feels important there is a neutrality to them as well. I would describe myself as a mostly figurative artist, I make a lot of heads and sometimes they are attached to bodies and sometimes they are not. The backgrounds tend to be quite neutral, they tend to be cold so they somehow recede, it’s somehow a practical approach to it. I think the one behind me is the only time I have thought…I imagined it underwater so I thought the idea of a kind of abstracted rays of light coming through the water so it became much more of a relationship between the figure and the ground. But usually it’s much more just a ground. I dunno some people…Rebecca who wrote the essay seemed to see something of a kind of Renaissance sensibility of kind of an egg blue or something…I don’t know, does that help?
AM2 – There is that theatrical thing as well in the shallowness of the space, it’s the thing in space. There isn’t any thing behind it there aren’t any trees there is not a room, there is nothing else to say.
AM – I was thinking more psychological reasons, in terms of isolation.
AM2 – That’s true.
D – I was going to say something more about it being really three dimensional and very flat at the same time. I get that with the paintings, they can be very three dimensional and very flat at the same time. You get that with a minimalist soul the idea of looking at something and being enveloped in it then realising you’re in space looking at it.
J – Maybe we should progress into the next room to look at the drawings? Am I right it saying they take us on a roughly chronological trajectory round the room?
D – Yeah I think so, I think it goes 2012, 2011, 10, 9 and I think the ones on your left are around 08 09
J – As in ‘The Validator’, the underwater totem is it true that you will come up with titles first and then the drawings, there is an arbitrary relationship between the titles and the drawings.
D – Yeah, I think the best way to think about the drawing or the way that I think about the drawings is that it is an extended sketchbook practice. I was making sketchbooks and making drawing this way and then notes and titles the other way and then sometimes the cross over between the title and the image was just incredibly serendipitous so I formalised it. Sometimes the title was made first and then the drawing or vice versa but there is no direct correlation between the title and the drawing, but it always says a word because that’s I guess how language works.
AM – Do they all have titles?
D – Yeah
H – on the back
J – there is a sort of table on the wall over there, which has all of the titles.
H – this one here we have had framed so you can see actually on the back, every single one of these has the title in ink on the back. When the title was given it was actually done separately to the work itself. Sometimes there is a weird correlation. The titling is on the back and there is a grid of all the titles on the wall over there.
D – Sometimes its abstract words, this guy is called Leviathan, and how could it be anything else. It just works beautifully and sometimes its really spooky like the three drawings behind you they are called the long fall, that gives me goosebumps, I dunno.
J – These, unlike the majority of the others, are a sort of triptych. Is that something that is more common to your drawings than it would appear in the rest of them or is this fairly unusual.
D – It is fairly unusual yeah, it’s like a diary like drawing for me. I have my studio paintings then at home we have like a writing desk, I have my table where I have my watercolours and it is much more of a reflected kind of thinking.
J – That idea of writing a diary is very appropriate for these. I think compared to a lot of contemporary drawing which is very arty and self-referential and self-consciously intelligent. They don’t seem to be overly self-conscious rather, like the paintings, they are a product of your imagination that is not necessarily fashionable or common in contemporary drawing or painting. There is a certain amount of humour in them I think.
D – yeah, definitely
J – Am I right in saying that some of them have direct…
D – Do you remember the story I told you?
J – Well the one with the stripy penis…what’s the story there?
D – Well the guy with the stripy penis, the title for the drawing is, the Sabre Tooth Cunt Dream. The idea for the drawing came about when I was on a train and there was this big picture of Donald Trump with his big head with a big comb over. I think the premise was ‘come to my conference and I will make you successful’ but I think he wasn’t even at the conference they just put on his video and it would be his big head on a screen telling you how to be successful. It’s just grotesque. I thought fuck you! I am going to disrobe you, so I did. It made me really happy. It really did. To just give him the same stripe of his hair to his penis it was just…
J – What about this one down here which is sort of an allegory about auto-eroticism this man somehow sort of Hans Bellmer style copulating with himself.
D – You have chosen two drawings that have made me look scary. This drawing is an example of what happens when you piss me off. I was working with a guy, a long time ago, and everybody got fired and then everyone was bitching about this guy and I said ‘leave him alone he is a nice guy he has got a good heart, just leave him alone’ Then years later I heard what the fucker was saying behind my back. So I thought ‘go fuck yourself’. This is one of the beauties of being an artist is that you can paint people fucking themselves. I think serendipitously the drawing was called ‘internal logic’.
AM – Does it look like him?
D – It kind of does I have got a vague photo in my head, my friends that know him were like is that…and I was like yeah it is. It’s a nice example, I think, the abstraction of the title and the drawing affords me the ability, on the one hand to be very personal but on the other hand very abstract. The titles are words that won’t leave me until they are written down, some observations, they can be song titles or book titles and the images also vary from something that is a very specific idea to the guy in the back left with the child on the lead with wings? I saw that in a train station, you know they have the children with the little leads? They are terrible things. It was less that and more the idea of his look of boredness. Sometimes it’s just working paintings out, this one is the grinder, which is the second painting down in the tomb painting. So it is all these things, it is a broad idea of drawing.
J – So while these aren’t studies as such they have points of intersections with the paintings. You were doing at the same time. Just one remark I wanted to make about this arbitrariness about title and work which sometimes results in a nice philosophical connection and at other times is maybe more disjunctive. In a way it’s more illustrative of a disjunction between your thoughts and your feelings and our reception of the work. Because without the privilege of this explanation we wouldn’t necessarily, we wouldn’t know the story of go fuck yourself and necessarily with art it is going to be like that so it seems to me that in that decision it is quite random.
D – I like that link, it reminds me of a Sartre story about naming. Which is…I can’t remember what book it is, but there is a child who is an orphan and he goes looking in his parents bedroom for evidence of his existence. I think he has just found out he is an orphan so he is kind of rummaging through his parent’s drawers and his stepfather walks in and says theif. Then he describes how happy he is because he has been named. It always reminds me of naming, certainly the connection between them.
J – and I suppose not to be overly obvious parallels with the idea of naming and therefore validating and the seeming authority that carries as well as its arbitrariness. I think it was Edgar Allen Poe who spoke about the nothingness of a name opposed to its authority and its certainty. Well thank you Dale, does anyone else questions about the drawings?
AM – I just wanted to ask one thing about the size they are obviously all exactly the same but over four years. Obviously that is conscious.
D – artists are beautifully pragmatic people sometimes, an artist gave me a massive ream of paper that is exactly this width but that long, so they each get cut that length. So when I run out I will change size or I will have to pay to get them cut down or vice versa. I quite like the size its sort of a more skinny A4, it would upset me if they were A4 but they are not. It’s like I would never do a two meter painting its more 199cm.
J – One interesting concluding thing that it would be nice to dwell on is the title of the show Ratio, how did that come about. It may entail lengthier explanation but…
D – It’s going to be pretty short actually. That is the one question that I didn’t want to be asked. If we were all in a room together two or three years ago and you would of said what’s your solo show going to be called? I would have said the same thing because it was always going to be called Ratio and you would have said why and I would have said I am not sure. I think it is becoming clearer as the show goes on. Apart from the obvious nod to William Blake, he said something like ‘if you see the eternal in something than you will see the eternal if you see the ratio you will always see the ratio’. Sort of paraphrasing, it is becoming like delamare and turpentine. It is a ratio to another. It can be a very interesting metaphor for describing a whole thing by separating it out into its parts. But I always thought the whole was inescapable but I think the whole is describable but only in its part.
H – What I personally learnt more about the word Ratio was that it wasn’t actually the usage in the way that I understood it; it was more in relation to rational thought. I was interested in learning when we were piecing the show together, this idea of Rational thought especially in the distinction between your drawings and your paintings because your paintings I personally see them as much more rational, compared to the drawings which are much more, not irrational, but unconscious and free because you do them every day but you only do one or two, three paintings in a year. That’s what I was interpreting but I think its interesting…maybe say a bit about your paintings and drawings, even someone came in today and said is this the same artist? They always say that!
D – I don’t think about it. The connection between my life and work and the connection between the paintings and the drawings are so centered within me there is no differentiation between the paintings and the drawings apart from the fact that they happen in different locations and maybe have a different aesthetic.
AM – If some of the drawings, if you can call them drawings, some are in watercolour and ink, if…I see them as very organic, they come from more of an organic process, they make one a day and your thinking about all sorts of things and that comes out in your drawings.
D – I think the drawings are definitely more diary like. Today I was thinking about two paintings that Robert Rauschenberg made which were called Romulus and Remus or Remus one and two, it’s two paintings which look very similar. It is one painting that is made at different times, they are one painting, I mean, they look identical until you look at the minute differences. Its fascinating because you look at painting and you think what is more expressionistic a Jan Van Eyck or a Jackson Pollock? It takes you far enough away from what you are looking at to make you realise that what you are making is a language. There is an accepted idea of the language of painting, like a splat meaning something expressionistic or something being not so and being more cerebral. In fact, the more uncomfortable truth is that its the same.
AM – I think you go through that process of making work, I think perhaps a lot more is revealed in the drawings, all of the mechanisms of your mind, references to things perhaps less formulated than in the paintings because you think so much about what is going on in the painting. It is very meticulously put together…
D – It’s interesting. I think to look at it that I am only reflective of what I do; I think it is reflective of the stereotypes and the issues that you come up with in paintings and drawings. I think painting can be of a more loaded iconography than drawing necessarily…I never had that problem
AM – I know Dale quite well, and for me both aspects of the work seem to make complete sense to me. I think some of the drawings even go as far as to become a 3D object or something that is vaguely Cubist.
J – I think certainly the ratio of the two works very well and the decision to hang the drawing alike that came as a result of the space.
D – Completely, I saw the side space and that main space and it was always going to be paintings and drawings on the side.
J – I get the impression that ultimately you feel that the distinction which is beloved of curators particularly between drawing and painting and works on paper is not actually a particularly important one.
D – I don’t know if it is important or not, I think…
J – I think that distinction is beloved of curators because painting is a problematic thing, not very fashionable whereas drawing seems to have a protected status
D – I’m not sure about the endangered species of painting. I think I am very linear in what I do. I meet artists who are very volume based but I am very linear, I think the drawings are very linear, there are a lot of lines in what I do. I think the paintings are very linear…
J – I think something that we haven’t discussed is while you are actually making these the with brush and canvas there are elements of line drawing, you use pastel as well as crayon
D – yes the paintings exist as a kind of chalk outline for a long time, I have learnt to leave it for a long time, just in that state.
J – Well its good to hear you are not perturbed by the status that I think painting does suffer from, a kind of beleaguered status. There is perpetual talk in certain quarters of its belatedness…
AM – That’s a bit 90’s
AM2 – I think that’s a little bit…when we were at college doing our MA if you said you were a painter there was a bit of…now it doesn’t have that…
J – But the people you were at college with are probably defining the taste of here and now.
D – My favourite retort to painting, what do you think that paintings not very important anymore…well its done pretty well for the past 40,000 years
J – To me it has the sort of comparable death of the novel mantra that was fashionable for decades and decades and has never been substantiated apart from being a sort of intellectual…
H- on this note the painting issue is something we are going to come back to later in the year with James and some other painters so it is to be continued!


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The Ward by Gideon Mendel – Exhibition at The Fitzrovia Chapel every Wednesday and Sunday until December 3rd


1 Nov - 2017

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Wednesdays 8, 15, 22, 29 November
Sundays 5, 12, 19, 26 November and Sunday 3 December
11.00 – 18.00
The Fitzrovia Chapel
2 Pearson Square, London W1T 3BF
The Fitzrovia Chapel is delighted to present its first photographic exhibition in line with its Lineage Programme, ‘The Ward.’ In 1993, Gideon Mendel spent a number of weeks photographing the Broderip and Charles Bell wards in London’s Middlesex Hospital as part of the ‘Positive Lives’ project. The Broderip was the first AIDS ward in London and was opened by Diana, Princess of Wales in 1987, this year marking the 30th anniversary of its opening. This was the era before antiretroviral medications had become available, a very distinct and tragic time. All of the patients on the wards, many of whom were young, gay men, were having to face the terrifying prospect of an early and painful death. In particular Gideon Mendel followed while he was there the stories of four patients – John, Steven, Ian and Andre.
These two wards at The Middlesex Hospital were some of the few dedicated AIDS wards that existed in London, and even more unusual for their decision to open themselves to being photographed. Considering the high levels of stigma and fear that existed at the time, the decision of these four patients to allow themselves, alongside their families, lovers and friends to be photographed was an act of considerable bravery.
During his time at the hospital, he photographed their treatment and many other aspects of ward life, including the intimate way in which the staff, patients and their families related to one another. Treatment was not a passive process, but rather an active engagement on the part of the patients, who were often extremely knowledgeable about their condition. The staff, too, became far more attached to their patients than was commonplace in hospitals at the time. All of the patients in these photographs died soon after the pictures were taken. They were the unlucky ones, who became sick just before treatment became available.
‘The Ward’ explores through Gideon Mendel’s evocative black and white photographs how it felt to live with HIV at this time when it was considered a veritable death sentence. It shows how the ward at the Middlesex Hospital became more like a second home, and the staff and patients friends. The Middlesex Hospital itself was demolished in 2005 apart from its stunning Grade II* listed secular chapel. It has recently been reopened as The Fitzrovia Chapel as a place of quiet contemplation in the community and to celebrate live events and the arts. An exhibition of 14 images will be displayed in the chapel every Sunday in November leading up to World AIDS day on December 1st 2017. There will also be ‘Through Positive Eyes’, a film project where people in London with HIV were given cameras to film and photograph their lives, which gives a powerful sense of how people are living with HIV today. This was produced as part of the global TPE project (throughpositiveeyes.org), –a collaboration between Gideon Mendel and the Art & Global Health Center at UCLA working with more than 130 HIV positive ‘artivists’ in ten cities around the world. ‘TheWard’ will also be published by Trolley Books and launched at the exhibition.


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‘The Ward’ by Gideon Mendel will be published by Trolley Books in November 2017 followed by an exhibition at The Fitzrovia Chapel


14 Oct - 2017

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In 1993, Gideon Mendel spent a number of weeks photographing the Broderip and Charles Bell wards in London’s Middlesex Hospital. The Broderip was the first AIDS ward in London and was opened by Diana, Princess of Wales in 1987, this year marking its 30th anniversary. This was the era before antiretroviral medications had become available, a very distinct and tragic time. All of the patients on the wards, many of whom were young, gay men, were having to face the terrifying prospect of an early and painful death. Considering the high levels of stigma and fear that existed at the time, the decision of these patients to allow themselves, alongside their families, lovers and friends to be photographed was an act of considerable bravery, while the wards themselves became very special and unique places.
‘The Ward’ by Gideon Mendel published by Trolley Books, November 2017. Exhibition at The Fitzrovia Chapel, the original chapel of the Middlesex Hospital every Wednesday and Sunday in November in the lead up to World AIDS day.
Pre order and support book in advance HERE


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Counterculture in Fitzrovia – Past and Present, Barry Miles and Hannah Watson in conversation


12 Oct - 2017

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We are excited to be doing a talk with the legend that is Barry Miles at hidden gem The Fitzrovia Chapel about Counterculture and Fitzrovia on 25th October, tickets are £6 and places limited so get booking now!!

BOOK HERE



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Juliana Cerqueira Leite solo show BLOOM at TJ Boulting Gallery


27 Sep - 2017

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Excited to invite you all to the second solo show with TJ Boulting of the amazing Juliana Cerqueira Leite! The BLOOM private view is on Thursday 5th October to coincide with Frieze Westend night when all the galleries are open late. This new work explores through sculpture and photocollage the hand gesticulations that express disasters in the news. Hope to see you there!
Private View Thursday 5th October 6-9pm
Exhibition continues until 7th November


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Come find us at Printed Matter New york Art book fair


24 Sep - 2017

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Double trouble at Printed Matter New York Art Book Fair come find us in Photography room 3 at MoMA PS1. Sign up for Scott Caruth ‘Molatham’ and buy asap ‘Tokyo Is Yours’ by Meg Hewitt


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Juliana Cerqueira Leite will be talking at the Wellcome Collection on Thursday 28th September


13 Sep - 2017

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Juliana Cerqueira Leite will be talking at the Wellcome Collection on Thursday 28th September (ahead of her solo show at TJ Boulting) on her artist book A Potential Space, on the representation of the vagina, with curator Nora Heidorn. It says sold out on the website but have been told by Wellcome that if you turn up on the night then seats are available. So come!


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New series by Sian Davey featured in the FT


12 Sep - 2017

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Beautiful new series by Sian Davey on British families at dinner time, featured in the FT ahead of her exhibition opening at National Portrait Gallery next week, curated by Sabina Jaskot-Gill with words by Tom Seymour.


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